Gro­cery gi­ants shelve UK move

A Bri­tish chain plans to sell old food very cheaply. Rachel Clay­ton re­ports on the New Zealand re­ac­tion.

The Press - - Business -

If you are throw­ing out milk or eggs after the best-be­fore date, you might be wast­ing food and money.

A su­per­mar­ket chain in Bri­tain will be the first ma­jor su­per­mar­ket to sell old food for dras­ti­cally low prices.

East of Eng­land Co-op’s 125 stores will sell food be­yond its best­be­fore dates, in­clud­ing dried foods and tinned prod­ucts, for just 10 pence (20 cents) in an at­tempt to cut food waste.

In New Zealand, Re­duced to Clear stores sell food, beauty, and house­hold prod­ucts that are near or past their best-be­fore date.

Some sav­ings in­clude Kel­logg’s All Bran Orig­i­nal 350g for $2.99, com­pared with the rec­om­mended re­tail price (RRP) of $4.99, and Golden Hills Manuka Honey UMF 5+ 250g for $12.99 (RRP $26.99).

But New Zealand’s two big­gest su­per­mar­ket com­pa­nies were not plan­ning to fol­low suit.

A Count­down spokesman said the su­per­mar­kets worked un­der a food safety pro­gramme that was ap­proved by the Min­istry for Pri­mary In­dus­tries (MPI).

The scheme in­cluded not sell­ing food past its best-be­fore or use-by date ex­cept on rare oc­ca­sions.

Food that was past its best but still suit­able to be eaten was do­nated to food res­cue groups by all Count­down stores, he said.

Food­stuffs spokes­woman An­toinette Laird said New World and Pak’n Save su­per­mar­kets aim not to have a lot of short-dated prod­uct in stock and don’t reg­u­larly sell ex­pired foods.

‘‘Health and safety is def­i­nitely a pri­or­ity for the busi­ness – we cer­tainly don’t want to put cus­tomers at risk,’’ she said.

An MPI spokesman said best­be­fore dates were about qual­ity and use-by dates were about food safety.

‘‘It is le­gal to sell food that is be­yond its best-be­fore date; how­ever, we would ex­pect busi­nesses to in­form their cus­tomers if they chose to sell food be­yond its best­be­fore date,’’ he said. ‘‘Food past its use-by date is po­ten­tially un­safe, and is il­le­gal to sell.’’

Otago Univer­sity food sci­ence lec­turer Biniam Kebede said many foods were safe to eat after the best-be­fore date.

‘‘The date is mainly based on food qual­ity and not food safety. If you take canned prod­ucts like fish it can be stored for a very long time, but after some time the colour starts to change or tex­ture changes, so the qual­ity is the shelf life of the prod­uct.’’

He said food com­pa­nies were care­ful with shelf life dates to pro­tect their brand.

Massey Univer­sity food safety pro­fes­sor Steve Flint said con­sumers had been con­fused about best-be­fore and use-by dates for years.

‘‘’Use by’ is based on food safety is­sues where food com­pa­nies have tested a prod­uct and know it is safe up un­til then,’’ he said.

Cheese could be eaten past the best-be­fore date, he said, and mould was not a food safety is­sue.

‘‘Eggs in New Zealand are pretty safe – we don’t have the same sal­mo­nella is­sues like other re­gions around the world.

‘‘It’s hard to tell how long it takes for eggs to spoil – it de­pends on where they are stored. If they are washed it re­moves a bac­te­rial pro­tec­tive bar­rier.’’

The Love Food Hate Waste web­site says eggs are safe to eat after their best-be­fore date but they need to be kept cool.

It rec­om­mends do­ing the float test to check if an egg is fresh: Place an egg in a bowl of wa­ter and if it floats it shouldn’t be eaten.

Go­ing by smell, site and taste was a much bet­ter way to tell if a food should be eaten, Flint said.

‘‘The dates are not so much of a con­cern – it’s more how the food is treated by the con­sumer.’’

PHO­TOS: SUP­PLIED; STUFF

Food sci­en­tists say eggs are safe to eat be­yond the best­be­fore date; above, all Count­down stores do­nate food that has passed its best.

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