Posted yesterday at 5:00am
A UK supermarket will remove best-before dates from hundreds of products in a bid to tackle food waste. A measure applauded by Quebec organizations and experts who believe expiration date rules should be reviewed.
From September, UK supermarkets Waitrose will remove ‘best before’ labels from nearly 500 fresh produce, including packaged fruit and vegetables.
This measure “aims to reduce the volume of food waste in UK households by encouraging customers to use their judgement” when deciding whether a product is still edible.
This high-end supermarket chain estimates it can save the equivalent of 7 million baskets of groceries from the landfill.
The Waitrose company is not the first to decide on such a measure. In 2018, the international retail group Tesco removed the best before date from around 100 products. British supermarket chain Morrisons removed the use-by date from 90% of its house milk brand’s products in January and told customers to sniff the contents of the bottle to see if it was still good.
A survey conducted last May by Quebec company Léger found that expiry date is the second most important reason consumers waste.
For Recyc-Québec, therefore, rules on use-by dates should be reviewed “to maximize efforts to reduce food waste.” However, the Crown Corporation states that food labeling is a federal responsibility.
The Quebec Food Processing Council (CTAQ) agrees.
We have repeatedly asked Health Canada to choose a better wording than “Best before” as we are aware that this creates waste.
Annick Van Campenhout, Vice President, Advances in Nutrition and Sustainable Development, at CTAQ
Without removing the expiration date entirely, the council proposes that the label clearly state that the product has a shelf life of a certain period beyond the date.
In Canada, the best before date provides information about the freshness and possible shelf life of unopened products, but does not guarantee the safety of the product.
“It is known and documented that ‘best before’ dates influence consumer behavior and discourage them from consuming certain products,” says Louise Hénault-Ethier, director of the Eau Terre Environnement Center at the National Research Institute, researcher (INRS).
“Sometimes it’s a total aberration. If there’s a date on the table salt, it doesn’t have to be,” she explains.
When we say “best before” it does not mean “best before”, which is often misunderstood by consumers.
Louise Hénault-Ethier, Director of the INRS Water and Earth Environment Center
On the other hand, certain foods such as infant formula and dietary supplements must have an expiry date. After the date, the food may no longer meet Canadian standards and its nutritional content as reported on the label may change. These foods are not affected by the measure taken by UK supermarket Waitrose.
Consumers ready for change
Mme Hénault-Ethier believes Quebecers would be willing to adapt to a withdrawal of the “best before” notation. Consumers met The press at the exit of a supermarket in Montreal on Monday, agree.
“I totally agree with the principle. A lot is wasted in North America and Canada. I never considered this data 100%,” says Alain Boivin, shopping bags in hand.
A few meters further, Diane Audy would also agree to this measure. “When you buy a product, you see if it’s good. There are some who are a little too sensitive to the date and a lot is wasted,” she says.
For his part, Philippe Lafrenière believes he can estimate the lifespan of his food. “Dates often encourage people to throw away food that is still of good quality,” he says.
“I think we’re smart enough to know when things aren’t looking good anymore,” adds Isabelle Carrier, who says she appreciates having access to expiration dates. “Earlier I bought bagels. The first thing I did was look at the date and pick the most recent one,” she says.
With Agence France-Presse
- 2.2 million
- Number of tons of food wasted in Canada each year
SOURCE: National Zero Waste Council
- 17 billion dollars
- Value of loss caused by food waste
SOURCE: National Zero Waste Council