Tue. Feb 27th, 2024

Online food shop lottery: Supermarkets deliver ‘fresh’ produce near or beyond use by dates

  • Sainsbury’s comes bottom of the league for how long delivered food lasts
  • Failure to carry out checks means items can be so old they pose health risk

Online shopping has created a lottery with some supermarkets delivering fresh food that is close to – or even past – its ‘use by’ date.

And Sainsbury’s comes bottom of the league for how long delivered food lasts.

A failure to carry out proper checks by some stores means items can be so old that they pose a health risk.

Families purchasing their weekly shop online are unable to be sure what ‘use by’ date fruit, veg and other chilled items will have – creating a risk that food will have to be thrown out before it is eaten.

A study by Which? looked at how six online supermarkets compared based on delivering a selection of 25 fresh food and drink items with a ‘use by’ date.

A study by Which? looked at how six online supermarkets compared based on delivering a selection of 25 fresh food and drink items with a ¿use by¿ date

A study by Which? looked at how six online supermarkets compared based on delivering a selection of 25 fresh food and drink items with a ‘use by’ date 

Researchers worked out the number of full hours remaining from the time of delivery to midnight on the ‘use by’ date for each item. They then calculated an average time per shop.

There were not huge differences between the supermarkets based on the averages. However, there were big differences when it came to specific items.

Sainsbury’s was bottom of the list, with perishable items that had an average shelf life of 9.7 days.

It also delivered the most out of date single item – chilled frankfurters that were 11 days out of date.

The average for Waitrose was 9.9 days. No products were delivered out of date but a pack of pre-cut melon chunks had just one day to go.

Asda’s deliveries had an average shelf life of ten days. But it delivered stilton that was out of date by nearly three days and five items with a ‘use by’ date of the following day.

Morrisons had an average shelf life of 10.1 days. But deliveries included a pack of sausages on its ‘use by’ date.

Tesco’s groceries arrived with an average shelf life of 10.2 days. One researcher received packs of chopped pineapple and melon with one day to go, and stilton with two days left.

Online-only Ocado, which has a partnership with Marks & Spencer, was the best supermarket with an average 11.2 day shelf life.

Ele Clark, Which? retail editor, said: ‘There can be downsides to not choosing products yourself, but no one would expect items to already be out of date when they arrive.

‘Any foods that have gone past their use by date can be dangerous to eat, so it’s not worth the gamble.’

Sainsbury¿s was bottom of the list, with perishable items that had an average shelf life of 9.7 days

Sainsbury’s was bottom of the list, with perishable items that had an average shelf life of 9.7 days

The stores – Asda, Morrisons, Ocado, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose – said they pick only the freshest items and shoppers can return anything they are unhappy with.

But in a separate survey, Which? found just 24 per cent of shoppers complained and 23 per cent ate out of date products. Some 18 per cent threw items away.

Sainsbury’s said: ‘We deliver more than 85,000 orders a day on average and are sorry that this tiny number of examples has not lived up to our usual high service.’

Waitrose said it picked ‘the freshest produce with the longest shelf life available’ for online deliveries.

Asda said: ‘We want all customers to receive the freshest products available and train our colleagues to pick products that are well within their use by date.’

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