No such thing as best before

Rosie Baker is Marketing Week’s specialist on sustainability and retail.

Food waste is a big issue for businesses in the food sector and best-before date labels have been in the news this week as a way to get supermarkets and consumers to waste less food.

The idea being that we chuck out tonnes of perfectly good produce every day because we think the best before date indicates the end of its life.

We fear eating something past its best before date and take it as gospel rather than a guideline, as if the loaf of bread will explode and turn to poison at the stroke of midnight on the date named on its label.

Food, and people, are more robust than that and a healthy does of common sense is all that’s needed  to tell if something is safe to eat or not.

In my house, there was never any regard for date labels in the first place, and things were good for eating until they literally grew legs and walked out of the fridge.

A lot of big businesses including supermarkets and café chains like Pret a Manger have arrangements where waste food that is still safe to eat, but not allowed to be sold, is put to use in some way. Pret, for example, gives its leftover food to the homeless.

It’s all good CSR activity for the big brands but its not often that smaller businesses shout about the progress they are making.

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This all made me think of an initiative from three markets in London’s East End.

Hoxton Market, Broadway Market and Ridley Road Market in Hackney have got Bedfordshire-based, eco-firm BiogenGreenfinch to collect all their waste fruit and veg each week, instead of sending it to landfill.

Biogen Greenfinch will then use clever anaerobic digestion methods to turn it into biofertiliser, used to grow more lovely food crops.

Being an East End dweller myself, it’s nice to see something like this happening on the doorstep. Plus, it’s not only green, but it saves the council money too.

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