Waitrose has become the latest British food retailer to eschew the practice of putting “best before” dates on food packaging in an effort to combat waste.
Starting in September, Waitrose will no longer put best-before dates on packaged fruit and vegetables. Morrisons stopped dating its store-brand milk at the beginning of this year, and Marks & Spencer said in July that it will no longer use date labels for 300 categories of fruits and vegetables.
The policies are part of an effort to cut down on food waste among both retailers and consumers. The British nonprofit WRAP (Waste Resources Acton Programme) estimates that removing dates from produce packaging could save the equivalent of 7 million shopping baskets of food a year from landfills.
Unlike the United States, the United Kingdom mandates the use of “best before” or “use by” dates on fresh food products. However, anti-waste initiatives seek to define those more strictly as the dates past which food is no longer safe to eat, as opposed to being past its peak of flavor or appearance.
U.S. legislators and trade groups have been working to standardize such labeling in America. A Food Date Labeling Act is pending in Congress that would mandate either “best if used by,” to indicate freshness, or “use by,” to indicate safety.