M&S removes best before dates across fruit & veg in bid to tackle food waste

M&S is removing best before dates from a range of fresh produce to help reduce in-store and household food waste.

Best before dates will be removed from the labelling of over 300 fruit and vegetable products – 85% of M&S’ produce offering – including commonly wasted items apples, potatoes and broccoli.

Dates will be replaced with a new code which M&S store colleagues will use to ensure freshness and quality is maintained.

The change, which is being rolled out across all M&S UK stores from this week, is designed to encourage customers to throw away less edible food at home by using their judgement.

Research from WRAP shows that an estimated 6.6m million tonnes of food is thrown away by UK households a year.

As part of its Plan A sustainability roadmap, M&S has pledged to halve food waste by 2030, with 100% of edible surplus to be redistributed by 2025.

As well as reducing the number of best before dates, the retailer is taking several steps to reduce food waste and helping its 30 million customers and 70,000 colleagues to do the same, including:

• Partnership with Neighbourly: Donating over 44million meals to charities by partnering with Neighbourly since 2015, where store teams work closely with their local communities to ensure edible food surplus is redistributed.
• 25p Banana bag scheme: Launching the 25p banana bags scheme last year, with customers able to buy a minimum of three ready to eat bananas along with two delicious recipes.
• Creating frozen garlic bread from unsold bakery products: Over 200 M&S stores use unsold baguettes and boules – which are baked fresh daily – to create frozen garlic bread, preparing them and adding garlic butter at the end of each day.
• Sparking Change National Challenge: Helping customers to reduce food waste with Love your leftovers recipes, such as blueberry and banana pancakes, as well as expert tips on batch cooking and storing food to make it last longer.

Reducing food waste is hugely important to families – M&S’ latest Family Matters Index revealed that 72% of UK families are taking steps to reduce household waste, with those in Northern Ireland the most determined (77%). Over half (55%) of families say it’s important that the shops they buy from make it easier for them to make more sustainable choices.

Andrew Clappen, Director of Food Technology, said, “We’re determined to tackle food waste – our teams and suppliers work hard to deliver fresh, delicious, responsibly sourced produce at great value and we need to do all we can to make sure none of it gets thrown away.

'To do that, we need to be innovative and ambitious - removing best before dates where safe to do so, trialling new ways to sell our products and galvanising our customers to get creative with leftovers and embrace change.

“The other side of the challenge is making sure anything edible we don’t sell reaches those who need it most. By partnering with Neighbourly since 2015 we’ve ensured over 44million meals are redistributed to local communities.

'Our promise as we aim for our target of halving food waste is to keep searching for solutions while we maintain the standards and value our customers expect.”

Catherine David, Director of Collaboration and Change at WRAP, said, “We’re thrilled to see this move from M&S, which will reduce food waste and help tackle the climate crisis.

'Removing dates on fresh fruit and veg can save the equivalent of 7 million shopping baskets of food being binned in our homes. We urge more supermarkets to get ahead on food waste by axing date labels from fresh produce, allowing people to use their own judgement.

'See Love Food Hate Waste for tips on how to reduce food waste, save money and fight climate change – did you know that storing most fruit and veg in the fridge, below 5oC, at home, can extend their life span by days, weeks and even months in the case of apples and potatoes?”