A United Kingdom-based independent retailer has started selling products beyond their "best before" dates in a bid to reduce waste in its stores.
East of England Co-op, a cooperative society owned by its 275,000 members that operates 125 food stores in the East Anglia region, said Dec. 4 that it is now selling items that have passed their "best before" dates for a nominal 10 pence. It said it is the first retailer to sell products beyond their such dates.
"Best before" dates appear on a wide range of foods, from frozen to dried to tinned. According to the U.K.'s Food Standards Agency, "best before" dates are "about quality and not safety. The food will be safe to eat after this date but may not be at its best. Its flavor and texture might not be as good."
The National Health Service estimates that 7.2 million metric tons of food and drink are thrown away each year in the U.K., most of which could have been safely consumed.
East of England Co-op said its initiative could save at least 2 metric tons of waste annually.
"This is not a money-making exercise, but a sensible move to reduce food waste and keep edible food in the food chain," said Roger Grosvenor, a co-CEO who spearheaded the initiative. "By selling perfectly edible food we can save 50,000 plus items every year, which would otherwise have gone to waste."
The food cannot be donated to charities, such as food banks because they do not accept products that are beyond their "best before" dates, the independent retailer said.
Ratula Chakraborty, a senior lecturer in business management at the Norwich Business School at the University of East Anglia who has extensive retail experience, said in an emailed statement: "The whole concept of 'best before' is a creation of overzealous regulation resulting in producers and retailers being unduly cautious in labelling their products with the result that perfectly good and edible food is wasted and thrown away uneaten. Hopefully, other retailers will follow the Co-op's lead and in the process support thrifty shopping and reducing food waste."