Co-op sells meals after 'finest earlier than' dates in waste crackdown

Bin to bargain Co-op estimates it can save more than 50,000 items a year

In an effort to reduce food waste, the East of England Co-op says that it is now selling items that are up to a month past their "Best By" dates in its 125 outlets, with prices reduced to just 10 pence (about 13 cents).

East of England Co-op joint chief executive Roger Grosvenor said: "We are committed to reducing waste in our business and The Co-op Guide to Dating is one of many initiatives we have instigated to make the East of England Co-op as efficient as possible, reducing our impact on the environment". Food can be eaten up to the end of this date but not after, even if it looks and smells fine.

Tackling food waste has been as big of an issue across the pond as it's been here in the States.

According to the Food Standards Agency, the "best before" date is about quality, not safety, and food is safe to eat after this date but may be past its prime.

The East of England Co-op, which is independent of the national Co-operative Group, will sell dried and tinned food past its "best before" date in 125 United Kingdom stores.

When we're grocery shopping, most of us don't seek out foods that have passed their "Best Before" dates.

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Roger Grosvenor, joint chief executive of East of England Co-op explained that customers appreciated the opportunity to save money, with numerous 10p items flying off the shelves within an hour of them being reduced during the scheme's trial period.

The retailer planned to retain heavily-discounted products on sale for one month past their "Best Before" date. After this date it will still be safe to consume items; they just might not be at their best.

Instead, the East of England Co-op collects donations of non-perishable food and toiletries within date in all its stores. "As such it is perfectly safe to sell food at or after its "best before" date," a spokesperson said. Thanks to the generosity of Co-op customers, donations for more than 80,000 meals were collected past year and donated to 22 food banks across the East Anglia.

It also introduced a new blue fridge icon for foods which should be kept chilled or benefit from being kept in the fridge at a temperature of below five degrees.

Otherwise, it said firms should only have a "Best Before" date and leave it up to the consumer to decide whether a product is good to eat.

It said: 'We estimate that technical changes to packaging and labelling could help cut around 350,000 tonnes of household food waste a year by 2025, saving shoppers around £1 billion a year in wasted food'. Just last week, FoodNavigator-USA reported that United Kingdom food regulators issued new voluntary guidance on food labeling specifically aimed at reducing unnecessary waste.

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