Food Labels are Becoming Stupidly Simple

Food Marketing Bodies will Simplify Expiry Dates to Reduce Waste

Labelling authorities in the USA have big plans to simplify the date information on food, reducing waste and saving consumers thousands of dollars.

Research carried out in 2013 suggests that Americans discard a mind-boggling $165 billion worth of food every year. The sad fact is that a large proportion of it is discarded needlessly, due to poorly-understood dates relating to freshness.

However, an initiative led by the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute is aiming to tackle this problem head on by introducing simple, concise information on food labels over the course of the coming year.

Too much information

There are currently ten different types of date information used on perishable foods in the USA, including Sell By, Use By, Best Before, Expires On and various others along similar themes.

Little wonder, then, that so much confusion ensues, and that thousands of people throw perfectly edible food away every day, just because they have seen yesterday’s date written on it.

A simple solution

Retailers and manufacturers have come up with a plan to demystify these different kinds of dates, and instead to provide consumers with two pieces of information, “best if used by” and “use by.”

“Best if used by” gives an indication of when the product is at its highest quality. It is still OK to eat it after that date has passed, but it will no longer be at its peak freshness.

“Use by” will be used on products that are highly perishable, such as meat and dairy products. In this case, there could be health and safety concerns after the date has passed.

Improving sustainability and saving money

Needless waste is something that buyers, retailers and manufacturers will all be keen to reduce from a moral and ethical perspective. However, there are also major financial advantages, according to Jill Carte from DayMark Safety Systems. She suggests that the innovation could save the average US family as much as $1,000 a year.

The new wording is being phased in with immediate effect, and although the standard is voluntary, widespread adoption is being strongly urged by the summer of 2018.

Although this remains a US-based in initiative at present, the problem of food waste is one of the biggest sustainability issues in the food industry worldwide. Manufacturers, retailer and the labelling industry here in the UK and in Europe will be watching with interest to see how the innovations are received.

After all, we all know that where the USA leads, the rest of the world is often quick to follow, and improved food labels can play a key role in reducing waste.