East of England's Co-op has become the first major retailer to sell food beyond its 'best before' dates in a bid to crack down on food waste.

The supermarket chain said its 125 stores in East Anglia will sell tin foods and dried products such as crisps, rice and pasta for just 10p once they are past their sell-by date.

The offer, however, will not apply to fresh products and perishable foods, which carry a "use by" date indicating when a product is safe to eat. The waste and recycling advisory body, Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) said the supermarket's decision was a "bold move".

"While 'use by' date labels indicate when a product is safe to eat, 'best before' date labels only refer to when food is at its best. As such it is perfectly safe to sell food at or after its 'best before' date," a spokesperson stated.

WRAP added the move would meet the guidelines from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Food Standards Agency, as long as discounted items were not damaged.

The supermarket, which is independent of the Co-operative Group, said the 10p items were being sold within hours of being reduced.

"The vast majority of our customers understand they are fine to eat and appreciate the opportunity to make a significant saving on some of their favourite products," said Roger Grosvenor, East of England Co-op's joint chief executive.

"This is not a money-making exercise, but a sensible move to reduce food waste and keep edible food in the food chain.

"The vast majority of customers understand they are fine to eat."

The retailer said it expects the move will result in at least 50,000 items not being thrown away every year and could see some of its rivals follow suit.

According to the Food Standards Agency, Britain throws away 7.3 million tonnes of food every year.