East of England Co-op could wake up the rest of the country....

NOW, I have family from the East of England. And when I say family, I mean I am married to her. So I think I am allowed to get away with saying that the East of England's not always at the forefront of the modern world. It's kind of a bit sleepy over there, things just drift along. To be fair, it's a very pleasant place to be.... but when you consider Ipswich to be the big smoke, well you get my drift.

But the East of England Co-op is currently in the news for becoming the first major retailer in the UK to sell food that is past its "best before" dates. The plan is to sell tinned and dried products for 10p, rather than bin them. This is, to be honest, long overdue, and I suspect some of the bigger players (no disrespect to East of England Co-op) will be monitoring with interest what happens.

After all, on some of these sorts of products "Best Before" dates can be somewhat arbritary. It's almost like they put something on some products simply because they have to put something. The reality is that the tin of baked beans with the Best Before Nov 2017 stamped on it is probably perfectly edible. My grandparents had tinned food in their cellar from the 1950s which was still edible in the 1990s...  (I think they might have once won a competition in which the prize was a life-time's supply of tinned corned beef and peaches) *Not in the same tin, that would be horrendous, even by my standards.

I know WRAP are heavily involved in pushing ideas like the one the East of England Co-op is introducing and they're doing a great job. Someone has to, as the food waste figures are a disgrace in this country. But they'll need a mindset change amongst the general public before anything major happens I suspect. Which is why some beady eyes will be monitoring out-of-date tinned food comsumption in Suffolk....

Personally, I don't think the public understand the difference between best before, sell by and use by, and that's a significant part of the problem. Not that I have a solution mind....

MARK LINGARD, MARKETING 

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