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Food & Hunger

Tesco Will Ditch 'Best Before' Labels on Fruit and Veg to Cut Food Waste

It happens all the time.

If fruit or vegetables are labelled as past their "best before" date, but are still edible, it's remarkable how many people will still throw them away.

Not you, of course. You’re perfect. But food waste keeps getting worse as other people waste food better placed in our bellies.

Which is why Tesco is getting rid of the "best before" label on edible fruit and vegetables in thousands of stores across the UK.

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

The British supermarket chain will remove the label across nearly 70 of its own-brand fruit and vegetables in a bid to cut down on food waste.

That includes pre-packaged apples, potatoes, tomatoes, lemons and other citrus fruit, and onions. Individual items already go without the label, according to the BBC.

A "best before" label informs the customer that the quality of the food product might deteriorate once the given date has passed, but, according to Tesco, the food is often still "perfectly edible."

The news follows a campaign from by the National Federation of Women’s Institutes (NFWI) that found that less than half of people surveyed knew what a "best before" date meant.

It’s different from the meaning of a "use by" label, which is used on perishable products like meat, dairy, and fish, and indicates a safety risk if the food is eaten past this date. Over 70% of people surveyed by the NFWI correctly identified the meaning of "use by" labels. Food can’t legally be sold once it's passed its "use by" date.

Read More: Morrisons Will Help Double the UK's 'Honesty Fridge' Network to Cut Food Waste

"We know some customers may be confused by the difference between "best before" and "use by" dates on food and this can lead to perfectly edible items being thrown away before they need to be discarded,” said Mark Little, Tesco’s head of food waste. "We have made this change to fruit and vegetable packaging as they are among the most wasted foods."

British households waste £13 billion worth of food every single year, according to advisory body Wrap. More than 7.3 million tonnes of food gets chucked, enough to fill half a billion lorries, of which 4.4 million tonnes could have been eaten instead.

Indeed, the average person in the UK will dispose of the equivalent of 2.5 main meals every single week, approximately £470 worth of edible food wasted every year.

But globally there were 124 million people in 51 countries in 2017 who faced crisis levels of hunger, and experts say the situation is likely to get worse.

“It’s a positive step in the right direction," Adam Smith, founder of food waste movement The Real Junk Food Project, told Global Citizen. "However, it is 2018, and we are no closer to solving surplus food being over produced than we were 10 years ago. If anything, the problem has gotten worse."

"We’d like to see radical, innovative and collaborative solutions to this global issue,” Smith added.

Read More: Guess What? Food Waste Costs the UK More Than Foreign Aid

Last year, Tesco promised to end edible food waste by March 2018. It also signed on to the Courtauld Commitment 2025, a collaborative voluntary agreement to cut food waste by 20% by within a decade.

"Through the Courtauld Commitment 2025, Wrap is working with the food and drink sector to review all the evidence on date labelling for fresh produce and agree best practice," said David Moon, Wrap’s head of business collaboration. "This change by Tesco provides a good opportunity to learn about the customer response, and we anticipate Tesco will share their findings."

Elsewhere, the Co-Op said last week that it will stop last-minute sales of fresh produce to reduce food waste, too — and instead will donate items to charities and local community groups two hours before closing every day.

Global Citizen campaigns to achieve the UN’s Global Goals to end extreme poverty by 2030, which include action on ending hunger. You can join us by taking action on this issue here.