10th October 2017

Food giants set a date to simplify “use by” labels

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A network of some of the world’s largest consumer goods companies has approved a commitment to simplify date labels by 2020.

The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), which includes 400 firms such as Tesco, Kellogg, Unilever and Campbell Soup, has adopted the Call to Action along with the Champions 12.3 coalition.

The commitment states that retailers and food producers should follow the following steps to simplify date labels and reduce food waste:

1. Only one label at a time
2. 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 before”).
3. Consumer education to better understand what date labels mean

The Call to Action also recommends that companies partner with nonprofit organisations and government agencies to educate consumers on interpreting date labels.

Dave Lewis, group chief executive of Tesco and chair of Champions 12.3, said: “Four years ago, Tesco was one of the first retailers to roll out single date coding across our fresh food and meat produce.

“Streamlining date labels worldwide by 2020 could be game-changing in the fight against global food waste.”

Approximately 1.3 billion tonnes of food is lost or wasted globally each year. The average UK household with children spends £700 a year on food that’s thrown away.

Peter Freedman, managing director of The Consumer Goods Forum, said: “Through our global membership, the CGF is committed to playing a leadership role. 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.”

Marcus Gover, chief executive of WRAP, said: “We need action from everyone from governments, businesses, NGOs and us all in our homes: uniting in the food waste fight.

“It is also essential that developing nations get the financial support they need to tackle food loss and waste. We have gathering impetus, and now we have something which could help navigate us all to our destination. There is no time to lose”.