Safefood has said that it supports moves by supermarkets to remove best-before dates on some food products.

The initiative, which is also in place in other countries, aims to reduce food waste in Ireland.

Bananas, apples and potatoes are among the foods most dumped unused by Irish shoppers.

Research from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), published earlier this year, also showed that Irish households generate around 250,000 tonnes in food waste annually.

The EPA said it equates to around €700 per household, with 55% of people throwing out food due to expired best-before dates.

As part of efforts to tackle food waste in Ireland, supermarkets have introduced a number of initiatives, including removing best-before date labels from some fruit and vegetable products.

Safefood, which promotes food safety and nutrition awareness, has reassured consumers that there are no risks associated with the practice.

The agency's Chief Specialist in Food Science, Dr Linda Gordon, said "we are satisfied from our point of view that this is not a food safety issue".

"It is about the quality of the food and there isn't a risk to consumers by removing best-before dates from fresh fruit and vegetables, so people can be reassured about that," she said.

Dr Gordon said people can treat food best-before dates as a guideline, but use-by dates must be regarded as a deadline.

She told RTÉ News that "it is really important not to confuse the two as there's an important distinction".

"A best-before date is about the quality of the food, so that up until that date the manufacturer is telling you that the food should be tasty, should look the way you want it to, the texture should be fine and the quality of the food will be fine up until that date and possibly for some time afterwards."

She said after the best-before date, the food should still be safe to eat but the quality may have deteriorated.

However, Dr Gordon said "a use-by date is about food safety, so that is your deadline".

"After that date the food may not be safe to eat. and you should never eat food after its use-by date."

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Lidl said it has not had best-before dates on its unprocessed fruit and vegetables for many years.

Aoife Noonan, Head of Quality Assurance at Lidl, said "it's not legally required and it allows our customers to make a choice on the best fruit and vegetables.

"Apart from a small selection of items, which are required to by law, as they have been washed and prepared by the supplier."

She said the retailer has "daily deliveries to our warehouses where staff check the stock on arrival and then we have dedicated store staff in all of our stores checking the fresh vegetables throughout the day".

SuperValu, which said it is "committed to reducing food waste while preserving the safety and premium-quality standard," is among the supermarkets which has also implemented the policy.

A spokesperson said: "We have already extended the shelf-life of 20% of our fruit and vegetable products while also removing dates from certain Own Brand fruit and vegetable products.

"A further 20% of our fruit and vegetable products are sold as loose and do not have dates applied, allowing consumers to make an informed choice."

However, SuperValu said it retains best-before dates "on some perishable fruit and vegetable products such as fresh berries to provide our customers with the consistent quality they expect."

Marks & Spencer has also said it is determined to "tackle food waste" and do all it can to make sure food is not thrown away.

A spokesperson for the company said as part of a range of measures, it has been "removing best before dates where safe to do so".

M&S also said it has been working with the Neighbourly Community Fund to redistribute surplus food.

"The other side of the challenge is making sure anything edible we don't sell reaches those who need it most," it said.