Online retailer Approved Food fears the wording used by Tesco commenting on its record £7.5m fine for selling food past its use-by date could create confusion and ultimately lead to an increase in perfectly good food going to waste.
The supermarket giant was fined after admitting selling food that had passed its use-by date – the date by which fresh produce such as meat, fish and eggs is safe to eat.
The offending items included 67 products such as kids’ meals, pizzas, scotch eggs, wraps, yoghurt and fruit, some of it up to 17 days past its use by date. In one instance, a bunch of grapes had mould growing on it.
At a hearing at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court, Tesco admitted 22 breaches of the Food Safety and Hygiene Regulations between 2016-2017. Afterwards, a spokesperson said the chain was disappointed that a “small number of out of date products had been found on sale and that date checking procedures had since been improved”.
Approved Food managing director Andy Needham said: “It is the use of the term ‘out of date’ that we take issue with. It is meaningless and is something that does not appear on any food packaging in the UK.
“Much of our work concerns educating the public about food labelling. If an item of food has passed its use-by date, as this food had, it is potentially dangerous and should not be eaten. If, on the other hand, it has passed a best-before date, then in all likelihood it will be perfectly safe to eat.”
Research by food app Too Good to Go shows that 10% of all food waste in Europe is as a result of confusion over labelling. Prior to launching its Look, Smell, Taste campaign – which Approved Food supports – the app also revealed that 45% of all adults in the UK are confused by what ‘best before’ dates actually mean.
Andy added: “Using terms like ‘out of date’ muddies the water, sews the seeds of confusion and potentially undoes much of the good work we are doing. People should understand that the date on a pack can mean one of two different things. Past use-by means it is dangerous to eat and it is illegal to market it for sale; past ‘best before’ is just an indication of optimal quality and it could be good for months or even years. Grouping all dates together like this is not helpful.”
The issue was made worse by media reports using the term ‘out of date’ in headlines.
Approved Food brand ambassador Jonathan Straight commented: “The fact that a Tesco spokesperson has used this meaningless term in an official statement that was then repeated in headlines in the national press will no doubt lead to perfectly edible food being needlessly discarded, adding to the shocking amounts of food already wasted in this country. It also detracts from the real issue, which is that Tesco’s internal procedures, checks and staff training have failed at multiple locations and on several occasions.”
Approved Food sources perfectly good ‘problem stock’ directly from food manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors, that may otherwise end up as waste, and sells it direct to consumers via the company website. Some of this food is close to or past its best before date. Customers are informed of the date on the pack and can make their own choice. All food sold is perfectly safe to eat. The company does not handle products with a use-by date.