Supermarket chiefs ignore expiry dates

May 24, 2014

Confusion over use-by dates cause millions of tonnes of food waste, campaigners say

Chung Sung-Jun / Getty Images

The bosses of Britain’s leading supermarket chains have admitted they often ignore expiry dates on food in their own homes.

The news has been seized on by campaigners, who argue that confusion over expiry dates causes million tonnes of food to be wasted each year.

In interviews with The Times, bosses from Tesco, Waitrose, and Marks & Spencer said they overlooked use-by dates, while executives at the Co-op, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s said they ignored sell-by and best-before dates.

MD of Waitrose Mark Price says he often eats fruit, vegetables, cheese and meat “a day or two after” the use-by date. Morrisons boss Dalton Phillips believes that “good, aged beef is nicer” and says he often eats cheese and yoghurt past their sell-by date. “The rule is smell it,” he adds.

Campaigner Mary McGrath, of Foodcycle, said: “Simpler and more accurate expiry dates would help consumers and supermarket bosses alike. We are wasting shocking amounts of perfectly edible food every day. I would have to question what they are doing about food waste.”

Some European countries are campaigning for the EU to scrap best-before dates on jam, rice, pasta, pickles, hard cheese and coffee. They argue that removing the dates would drastically cut food waste across the continent.

However, Britain is not supporting the plan. Officials fear that the removal of the dates might encourage consumers to throw away more food because they would be unsure over whether it is fit to eat.

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