Co-op is set to become the first major retailer in Britain to sell food that is past its “best before” date, in a new initiative to tackle food waste. 

Dried foods and tinned products — which are still “perfectly safe” to eat after the “best before” date — will be on sale for just 10p in the drive to tackle the amount of food that Brits throw away.

The East of England Co-op will roll out the change across 125 stores in East Anglia — and it’s hoped that it will prompt other retailers to do the same. 

The 10p products disappeared off the shelves within hours of being reduced, in the stores that have been trialling the initiative. 

Take action: Tweet Starbucks Asking Them to Donate 100% of Unused Food to Charity in the UK

“The vast majority of our customers understand they are fine to eat and appreciate the opportunity to make a significant saving on some of their favourite products,” said Roger Grosvenor, East of England Co-op’s joint chief executive. 

“This is not a money making exercise, but a sensible move to reduce food waste and keep edible food in the food chain,” he said. 

The UK throws away 7.3 million tonnes of food every year, according to the Food Standards Agency — which is estimated to cost around £13 billion a year. 

This is partly because people don’t realise the difference between “use by” and “best before” dates on food packages. 

Read more: This Is the Second Most Wasted Food in the UK — But You Can Help Change That

While “use by” applies to perishable foods, such as fish and meat, which aren’t safe to eat after that date, “best before” applies to non-perishable foods, such as pasta, crisps, and rice. 

Food can’t safely be sold, redistributed, or eaten after the “use by” date, but can be eaten and sold safely after the “best before” date. 

The East of England Co-op, which is independent of the Co-operative Group, believes the initiative will save at least 50,000 items a year from the bin. 

Britain’s waste and recycling advisory body, Wrap, said it is still “perfectly safe” to sell and consume food after its “best before” date, and that the Co-op initiative meets the latest guidelines from the Department for the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs and the Food Standards Agency. 

Read more: The UK Is Working to Block EU Plan to Halve Food Waste by 2030, Say Campaigners

Wrap also launched a new initiative last week, supported by the government, to tackle the problem of edible food going to waste. 

The campaign, called “Don’t be a Binner, have it for dinner,” aims to improve labelling on food packages to stop edible food being wasted.

Wrap says a lot of food waste in the UK is due to confusion over the different terms on labels, which means people throw away food that is actually still safe to consume. 

For example, milk labels say milk keeps fresh in the fridge for three days after it’s opened — however, it’s safe to drink for far longer. 

Read more: This Global Citizen of the UK Hates Food Waste So Much She Launched an App to End it

Aldi has also announced that it will be giving out surplus stock “for free to good causes” and to “those in need” on Christmas Eve, from 4 p.m. — with an estimated 20-30 crates of leftover food set to be distributed from each store.

Charities and local organisations are being urged to contact Aldi’s head office to arrange collection of the stock. 

Global Citizen campaigns to achieve the UN’s Global Goals, including zero hunger. We believe it’s not right for edible food to be thrown away while children, both overseas and in the UK, are going to bed hungry. You can join us by taking action here


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Co-op Set to Sell Food Past Its ‘Best-Before’ Date for Just 10p

By Imogen Calderwood