Best before labels come under scrutiny as food waste issues rise

Some UK grocery chains actively encourage customers to use their senses. Morrisons removed ‘best before’ dates from most store brand milks in January and replaced them with a ‘best before’ label. Co-op, another grocery chain, did the same for its private label yogurts.

It’s a change that some buyers support. Ellie Spanswick, a social media marketer in Falmouth, England, buys produce, eggs and other groceries from farm stalls and local stores when she can. The food doesn’t have a label, she says, but it’s easy to tell it’s fresh.

“The last thing we need to do is waste more food and money because there’s a label on it telling us it’s no longer good to eat,” Spanswick said.

But not everyone agrees. Ana Wetrov from London, who runs a home improvement business with her husband, fears that without labels staff will know which items need to be removed from the shelves. She recently bought a pineapple and only realized after cutting it that it was rotting in the middle.

“We’ve had dates on these packages for the last 20 years or so. Why fix it when it’s not broken? Wetrov said.

Some US chains – including Walmart – have moved their store brands to standardized “best if used by” and “use by” labels. The Consumer Brands Association — which represents big food companies like General Mills and Dole — also encourages its members to use these labels.

“Consistency makes it much easier for our businesses to make products and keep prices lower,” said Katie Denis, the association’s vice president of communications.

In the absence of federal policy, states have stepped in with their own laws, frustrating food companies and grocers. Florida and Nevada, for example, require “sell by” dates on shellfish and dairy products, and Arizona requires “best before” or “use by” dates on eggs, according to Emily Broad Lieb. , director of the Food Law and Policy Clinic at Harvard. Faculty of Law.

The confusion has led some companies, like Unilever, to back legislation now in Congress that would standardize US date labels and ensure food could be donated to relief organizations even after its quality date. At least 20 states currently prohibit the sale or donation of food after the date on the label due to liability concerns, Lieb said.

Clearer labeling and donation rules could help nonprofits like Food Shift, which trains chefs using salvaged foods. It even makes dog treats from overripe bananas, salvaged chicken fat and a brewer’s spent grain, Apple said.

“We definitely need to focus more on those little things like fixing expiration date labels because even though that’s such a small part of this whole food waste problem, it can have a lot of impact. impact,” Apple said.

About Jun Quentin

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