top of page

Asda Joins Its Rivals By Scrapping Best Before Labels On 250 Fruit & Veg Products

The Co-op June 2022 - 5 for £5 Freezer Deal

Asda is the latest supermarket to remove best before dates, scrapping labelling on nearly 250 fruit & veg products, to try and help reduce the amount of food that its customers waste due to the product having gone past its best before date.

We've all thrown away products because they've passed the best before date, but did you know that 40% of all food produced is thrown away worldwide!? Therefore in an effort to minimise the amount the UK public is throwing rather than eating, several supermarkets, including Lidl, Waitrose, M&S, Ocado, and now Asda, have either removed or pledged to remove best before dates from selected fruit and vegetable products, such as potatoes, carrots, cauliflower and citrus fruits.

Asda fruit and vegetables

The idea is that products that don't have a specific use-by date (which is a date the product must be used by to ensure the food is not potentially dangerous to eat) will no longer display a best before date. The user is encouraged to look, touch and smell the product to see if the product is still usable, and this is due to many products still being perfectly edible for consumption well after the suggested best before date.

I worked for a well-known supermarket for a couple of years, and my role was as a code checker. My job was to remove products from display whose best before date was short and needed to be reduced to clear (yellow stickers).

Any products that didn't sell after being reduced were 'wasted', meaning they were disposed of and couldn't be sold. I would see dozens of items every day, sometimes hundreds, that was perfectly fine to eat but couldn't be sold as the best before date had been exceeded.

I remember one Christmas we threw away 2 whole pallets of bags of potatoes because the best before date was the day before, it was so depressing, we had lots of regular customers desperate to find cheap food, as times were tough, yet we were throwing away perfectly edible food, all because of a best before date, we weren't even allowed to give them away, even though they were going in the skip!

So it's good news that retailers are now removing best before dates on certain products, this initiative means that we, the fruit and veggie buyers, are less likely to throw food away as we no longer have a date there to influence our decision-making in regards to the freshness of a food product.

Tests have shown that when a consumer was faced with identical pieces of fruit and veg, both with the same 'best before' date, but only one with a label, the other without a label, up to 40% more people chose to throw away the item with a recently expired best before date, than the same item, minus the best before date, proving that the label was a significant influence on how people perceived the food in front of them!

An environmental research company, Wrap, stated that recent evidence showed that the average family throws away some £60 worth of food and drink every month, which is £720 a year. It's hoped that removing the best before label will reduce this amount down, hopefully significantly!

Most fruit and vegetable products, currently with a best before date, but soon to lose it, can be kept far longer than a best before date would suggest by storing the food correctly. Refrigerating fruit and vegetables will enhance the product's life by days, possibly even weeks, and food retailers will be adding storage hints and tips to the labels of the products to help consumers get the longest life from their food.

Now it's worth reminding everyone that we are talking about best before dates here, NOT use by dates; these are very different.

Here's the definition of the two different types of labelling from the Food Standards Agency

A use-by date on food is about safety. This is the most important date to remember. You can eat food until and on the use-by date but not after. You will see use-by dates on food that goes off quickly, such as meat products or ready-to-eat salads.

For the use-by date to be a valid guide, you must carefully follow storage instructions. For example, if the instructions on the packaging tell you to refrigerate after opening, you should keep the food in a fridge at 5°C or below. Find out more about chilling your food correctly.

After the use-by date, don't eat, cook or freeze your food. The food could be unsafe to eat or drink, even if it has been stored correctly and looks and smells fine. Many foods, including meat and milk, can be frozen before the use-by date, so plan ahead.

The best before date, sometimes shown as BBE (best before end), is about quality, not safety. The food will be safe to eat after this date but may not be at its best. Its flavour and texture might not be as good. Best before dates appear on a wide range of foods, including:

  • frozen foods (such as peas, chips and ice cream)

  • dried foods (such as pasta and rice)

  • tinned foods (such as baked beans and canned tomatoes)

The best before date will only be accurate if the food is stored according to the instructions on the packaging.

For foods with a best before date (which concerns food quality), you can use sensory cues to determine if the food is appropriate to eat. You could look for visible mould on bread, taste to see if biscuits/crisps are stale, or sniff/smell some dairy products with a best before date to see if they have soured.

For food with a use-by date, the ‘sniff test’ is not an appropriate method for testing if food is safe to eat. Food can look and smell fine even after the use-by date has passed, but the product will not be safe to eat. We can’t see or smell the bugs that can cause food poisoning.

Manufacturers are responsible for deciding whether to apply a use-by date or a best before date on their products. This will depend on factors such as how the food is made and how risky it is. They will make sure the right label is used on the product.

The removal of the best before dates will, of course, reduce waste and, at the same time, help the UK consumers to reduce their food costs at what is such a pivotal time, as we experience food poverty on a scale not seen in modern times. Every penny saved and every food product not thrown away is another win for the hard-up consumer, and it's likely that in the coming months, most UK supermarkets will remove the best before dates from their products.

Asda will be removing the best before date from the 1st of September 2022.


bottom of page