A good move at the right time.
This was my immediate thought when I learned that East of England Co-Op is to relax its policy on the highly misleading 'Best Before' (BB) advice that applies to its tinned and dried foods. BB dates are 'quality' dates and are set by food manufacturers. In a bid to address the chronic problem of food waste in England, the chain of convenience stores is starting to sell food that is beyond its BB date at knock down prices. This is good news on a number of fronts.
20,000 tonnes of thrown-away food PER DAY
I recently wrote a blog about food waste in the home, but it's long been the case that another major contributor to Britain's food waste problem is retailers. For far too long, shops have thrown away food that is past its BB date, even though the BB date doesn't necessarily mean the food is inedible. Now, when the BB date on certain items of food has expired, East of England Co-op will reduce the price of the food to 10p in many cases. This has many benefits to the local community:
- Less food waste on the part of the retailer
- More affordable food for local people
- Consumers' buying habits will change as people get used to the idea that an expired 'BB' date does not mean the food is bad
- One hopes there will also be a positive impact on local producers of food, if this move by Co-op signals a more sensible attitude towards the kind of food it finds acceptable to put on its shelves.
Manufacturers also have a role to play. BB labelling is past its sell by date. It confuses consumers. It's time for BB dates to be removed from packaging altogether (except in cases where safety is a genuine issue).