Shopping > Stories

Co-op to sell food past its “best before” dates. What do food labels really mean?

Robin Bowman

Robin Bowman
Dec 4, 2017

The Co-op’s 125 stores in the East of England have become the first supermarkets in the country to sell food beyond its “best before” date. 

The move, which began today, is a bid to slash food waste.

The government estimates as much as £16 billion of edible food, amounting to 7.5 million tonnes, is thrown away every year in the UK. That amounts to around £700 for every household.

The Co-op says food in tins, or that is dried will be sold up to a month beyond its “best before” date for just 10p.


A Spokesman Said offers price comparison in energy, insurance and broadband that could save you hundreds.

Compare & Save
GBP silhouette

This will include a wide range of fruits, beans, pasta, rice and foods in packets such as crisps and cereals.

It now seems inevitable that other supermarkets will follow suit, although none have announced plans yet. 

The company said it had taken the action after a successful three-month trial in 14 of its shops. 

Huge savings

Roger Grosvenor, East of England Co-op's joint chief executive, said the 10p items sold within hours of having their price cut.

"The vast majority of our customers understand they are fine to eat and appreciate the opportunity to make a significant saving on some of their favourite products," he said.

"This is not a money-making exercise, but a sensible move to reduce food waste and keep edible food in the food chain."

The Co-op estimates the scheme will prevent at least 50,000 food items a year from going to waste.

The UK's biggest supermarket chain, Tesco, said it didn't sell food past its "best before" date, but unsold food was donated to charities.

Waitrose also said food after its "best before" date, but still within its "use by" date is offered to charities and good causes.

What’s the difference between ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ dates?

Fresh foods will carry a “use by” date, and must not be sold or eaten after this time.

Any food that’s perishable, like fish, milk and meats, must never be eaten after their ‘use by’ date as this is a threat to health.

A food showing a ‘best before’ date can be sold and consumed after the date shown. The date is really only for guidance to the consumer. And many people say that these foods taste absolutely fine long after their ‘best before’ dates.