Majority of fresh produce will have date labels removed in a bid to reduce unnecessary waste

The Co-op is removing ‘best before’ dates on over 150 fresh produce lines in a move aimed at encouraging customers to cut food waste and save money.

Fruit and veg at the Co-op

Fruit and veg at the Co-op

In changes that kick in from late February, all of the Co-op’s fruit and vegetables - with the exception of a small numer of more perishable items or where it’s more difficult to determine freshness - will have their ‘best before’ dates removed. The switch follows a small-scale trial last year.

The convenience retailer highlighted product life testing by WRAP showing that fruit and veg can be good to eat well beyond the ‘best before’ date when stored in optimal conditions.

Examples include broccoli, where the difference between the ‘best before’ date and the first sign of deterioration was found to be 15 days; potatoes, where the difference was 20 days; and apples, which was in excess of 70 days.

In addition to removing ‘best before’ dates, Co-op is also introducing on-pack guidance to highlight the optimum storage conditions to prolong product life.

Adele Balmforth, propositions director at the Co-op, said: “As we face into a climate, environmental and cost-of-living crisis, we are committed to helping our customers cut food waste in the home and save money. Date codes can drive decisions in the home, and result in good food being thrown away - which has a cost to both people and to our planet.

”In addition to axing best before dates on fresh fruit and vegetables, our inclusion of storage instructions can also help products last longer, and sits alongside our simple on-pack message for shoppers - ‘If it still looks good enough to eat, it is!”

Catherine David, director of collaboration and change at WRAP, added: “We’re delighted to see the Co-op continue to take action to reduce household food waste, saving customers money and conserving the planet’s precious resources.

”We know from our research that removing the date labels on fruit and veg will help people throw less good food in the bin. And the on-pack information which Co-op will be introducing that outlines the best storage conditions to prolong product life will be an invaluable tool for people wanting to make the most of the food they buy. The average family spends £700 year on good food which ends up in the bin – moves like this from the Co-op help to change that.”