East of England Co-op selling out of date food at discount prices to help the environment
- Credit: JAMES BASS PHOTOGRAPHY
Shoppers at dozens of East of England Co-op stores will be able to buy food past its best before date to help reduce waste.
The supermarket chain, which has 125 branches and is East Anglia's biggest independent retailer, is the first major retailer to launch such a movement.
The 'perfectly edible' items are on sale for 10p as part of a campaign by the chain to reduce its environmental impact.
Tinned goods, packets and dried food which carry best before dates, rather than use by dates, will be included in the scheme.
The 10p reduced products will not include use by dated goods, which should not be eaten beyond these dates.
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According to the Food Standards Agency (FSA), the best before date is about quality, not safety, and food is safe to eat after this time but may be past its prime.
Roger Grosvenor, joint chief executive of East of England Co-op, said: 'This is not a money-making exercise, but a sensible move to reduce food waste and keep edible food in the food chain.
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'By selling perfectly edible food we can save 50,000 plus items every year that would otherwise have gone to waste.
'The vast majority of customers understand they are fine to eat.'
It is estimated the UK throws away 7 million tonnes of food every year, the majority of which could have been eaten, according to the FSA.
The new campaign to sell the discounted products, entitled the Co-op Guide to Dating, follows a three-month trial at 14 of its stores.
'During our trial we found our 10p items went within hours of being reduced, sometimes quicker,' Mr Grosvenor added.
Ratula Chakraborty, a retail expert and senior lecturer in business management at the Norwich Business School at the University of East Anglia, said: 'Strictly following best before and use by makes sense for meat and fish products but for the myriad of tinned and packaged dry goods, it is a sensible move to relax the obsession with best before.
'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.'