Global companies commit to simplified food date labelling

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The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) has approved a Call to Action to standardise food date labels worldwide by 2020.

The Call to Action says retailers and food producers should take three important steps to simplify date labels and reduce food waste by 2020:

  • Only one label at a time
  • 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”)
  • Consumer education to better understand what date labels mean.

The CGF Board of Directors unanimously adopted the Call to Action to simplify date labels, including companies like Tesco, Kellogg, Walmart, Nestlé and Unilever.

The announcement expands national efforts to streamline date labels in the United States, United Kingdom and Japan to the rest of the world.

In addition, the Call to Action recommends 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.

Many consumers don’t know, for example, that a number of products are still safe to eat past the “Best if used by” date.

An estimated 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 United States, that figure is $1,500.

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.

The announcement was made at a Champions 12.3 event at The Rockefeller Foundation during Climate Week and the 72nd United Nations General Assembly.

At the event, Champions 12.3 also launched SDG Target 12.3 on Food Loss and Waste: 2017 Progress Report, which takes stock of global progress to date toward halving food waste and reducing food loss by 2030.

The report finds that countries and companies are setting reduction targets aligned with SDG Target 12.3 – today, 28% of the world’s population live in a country or region with a target to reduce food loss and waste, and nearly 60% of the world’s 50 largest food companies have set reduction targets.