SHOPPERS who are not fussy about “best before” dates have been picking up food bargains at several local Co-op stores.

Southern Co-op is in the middle of a trial which involves selling selected products after the advisory date.

The idea is part of a waste-cutting initiative called Reducing Our Footprint and offers discounts on products which would previously have gone unsold.

Gemma Lacey, director of sustainability and communications at Southern Co-op, said: “People are more aware than ever of the impact of unnecessary food waste. We want to go one step further and prove that a large number of products are still tasty and good enough to eat past their ‘best before’ date.

“We hope this will also raise awareness that there are products in the back of people’s cupboards which don’t need to be thrown away.

“According to national figures, UK households waste five million tonnes of edible food every year and together we can do more to keep edible food in the food chain.”

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The 13 stores taking part include branches at Blandford’s Salisbury Road, Shaftesbury’s Beaufoy Close and Station Road in Sturminster Newton.

Southern Co-op says it has had nothing but positive comments from customers.

The trial focuses on the “best before” date because that is based on the quality, not the safety, of the product.

Products are sold for 20p, with fresh products available up to two days after their “best before” date and “ambient products” up to seven days after the date.

Products included in the trial include tinned fruit and vegetables, dried pasta and rice, confectionery, selected condiments, sugar and sweeteners, coffee, tea and jams as well as chilled products such as soft fruit and fruit juices.

Southern Co-op already ensures that no store waste reaches landfill, with unsold food broken down to produce biogas and bio-fertiliser through anaerobic digestion.

Gemma Lacey added: “We have some ambitious climate action targets over the next decade as we aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our direct operations by 50 per cent by 2030, compared to 2019.

“This will build on the initial work we did to reduce our emissions by 27 per cent in 2018 compared with 2012. We hope more businesses will join us and together we can start to make an impact on climate change.”

The Food Standards Agency advises that products past their “best before” date are safe to consume but may not be at the optimum quality intended by the producer.