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| September 18, 2018

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Should We Rethink The Way We See Best-Before Dates?

Should We Rethink The Way We See Best-Before Dates?
Andrew O'Connor

The accuracy of use by and best before dates are contested in many circles, with some arguing that the dates are purely an exercise to cover food suppliers from the risks of litigation, whilst other claim that best before and use by dates are a sneaky way of nudging consumers towards quicker consumption and increased frequency of purchases.

A supermarket in Haywards Heath has now decided that food that is just outside the parameters of the best before date is safe to eat, and has started selling items at massively discounted rates to curb the amount of food waste they see on a daily basis.

“It’s a great deal for the customers, and it’s good for us because we’re actually getting the customers to join in with us in helping to stop food going into landfill sites” Joint Chief Executive, East of England Coop, Roger Grosvenor.

Items being sold at discounted rates always go down a treat, and save much needed pennies an pounds in the lead up to the expensive Christmas period.

via: yisris (flickr)

via: yisris (flickr)

We spoke to some customers of various supermarkets on Western Road this morning to find out what they through about best before and use by dates, and whether more stores across Brighton and Hove should start implementing this policy of price gauging and waste reduction:

“I think it’s a great idea, you kill two birds with one stone this way. You save people money, and you save the environment. I can’t see the downside.”

“I generally don’t pay too much attention to the use by dates at home. If it’s been in the fridge then it’s going to be ok. I just check for signs that the food has gone bad myself rather than relying on the packaging to tell me. I mean, you know if a chicken breast has gone don’t you?”

“I’m not sure about it. I’ll throw food away if it’s past the use by date just to be on the safe side. I wouldn’t want to poison the kids!”

One customer even parroted the slogan of a famous supermarket chain as he walked off, “every little helps”, as he patted his back pocket, an advertising mash up that got to the heart of customer motivations in many stores across the country, where value trumps everything else.

via: (flickr)

via: (flickr)

“Rather than just throwing it out and no one getting any use out of it, I don’t see why it hurts just to get a little bargain here and there, especially at this time of year. Whose complaining?”

10m tonnes of food is wasted each year in the UK, and households are the most wasteful, throwing away 7.3m tonnes of food, 60% of which could have been eaten with confusion about labelling and use by dates being seen as one of the main problems.

“The use-by dates is where the food may dangerous or unsafe to eat after the date has expired. A best-before date is basically based on quality, so the food might taste slightly different, it might not look as good, it might feel or smell slightly different, but in reality is actually absolutely safe to eat.” Mike Williams, Food Safety Expert

What do you think should be done with food that strays a few days beyond it’s best before date? Would you be happy to buy it at a discounted rate? Or would you like to see it donated to local charities who could put it to good use?

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