The world’s largest food and beverage companies have pledged to standardise food date labels globally by 2020.
With companies using ‘sell by’, ‘use by’, ‘best before’ and ‘display until’ labels to indicate the correct dates for consuming and purchasing foods, consumers have become increasingly confused. Indeed, it is estimated to cost families up to $29 billion annually in the US alone.
The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) – a network of 400 of the biggest consumer goods companies across 70 countries – has approved the call to action.
Companies agreeing to the measures include: Tesco, Kellogg, Walmart, Campbell Soup, Bimbo, Pick n Pay, Nestlé, Carrefour and Unilever.
The call to action says retailers and food producers should take three steps to simplify date labels and reduce food waste by 2020: one label at a time; consumer education; choice of two labels, one expiration date for perishable items (e.g. ‘use by’) and one food quality indicator for non-perishable items (e.g. ‘best if used by’).
The announcement expands national efforts to streamline date labels in the US, UK and Japan.
In addition to the labels on products, the call to action recommends that companies partner with non-profit organisations and government agencies to educate consumers about how to interpret date labels. Education efforts could include in-store displays, web materials and public service announcements.
CGF estimates that 1.3 billion tons of food worldwide is lost or wasted each year. The average UK household with children spends £700 a year on food that’s thrown away; in the US, that figure is $1,500.
In a statement, CGF said: “Standardising food date labels is a simple and effective way to reduce the amount of edible food thrown out by households, saving them money and reducing their environmental footprint.
“Food loss and waste is a major contributor to climate change, emitting 8% of annual greenhouse gases.”
CGF managing director Peter Freedman believes now more than ever is the time for businesses to tackle food waste.
“Through our global membership, the CGF is committed to playing a leadership role,” he said. “We believe simplified and consistent date labelling will help us get one step closer to meeting our resolution to halve food waste by 2025 while also helping reduce confusion for consumers.”
Kellogg Company senior vice president Maria Fernanda Mejia added: “Simplifying food date labels is an important step forward in preventing food waste, and will help end the confusion related to ‘sell by’ dates.
“Kellogg is an enthusiastic supporter of improved and harmonised food labelling standards to help educate and empower consumers to prevent food waste, save their families money, and conserve resources to protect our planet.”
CGF is a global industry network that is driven by its members to encourage the global adoption of practices and standards that serves the consumer goods industry worldwide. It brings together the CEOs and senior management of some 400 retailers, manufacturers, service providers, and other stakeholders across 70 countries
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