Marks & Spencer is removing “best before” dates off of more than 300 fruit and veg items. They will be replaced by a code that M&S staff can use to check freshness and quality, tackling food waste.

Tesco, Morrisons and Co-op are among supermarkets that have scrapped “use by” dates on some of their products.

Waste & Resources Action Programme (Wrap) said 70% of the UK’s food waste is binned in homes, mounting up to 4.5 million tonnes of edible food a year.

Catherine David, director of collaboration and change at the charity, added: “We urge more supermarkets to get ahead on food waste by axing date labels from fresh produce, allowing people to use their own judgement.”

Use by labels are the dates until which perishable food can be cooked and consumed safely. Best before guidance, meanwhile, is for when the product should be consumed to get the best quality, taste and texture.

The Food Standards Agency says it is up to manufacturers to decide whether to apply a use by or best before date on their products. It will depend on factors such as how the food is made and how risky it is, it said.

The move away from best before dates could also help supermarket profits as they battle to keep the cost of everyday essentials down as food prices soar.

M&S has committed to halve food waste by 2030 as part of its sustainability roadmap, with all of its edible surplus to be redistributed by 2025.

Andrew Clappen, director of food technology at M&S, said it needed to “do all we can to make sure none of it gets thrown away” and encouraged customers to “get creative with leftovers”.

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