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Companies Commit to Save Food Waste through Better Labels

Sept. 20, 2017
An estimated 1.3 billion tons of food worldwide is lost or wasted each year and confusion around labeling costs US consumers $29 billion.

Confusion on the part of consumers as to when food will expire has ended up costing families $29 billion annually in the United States.Terms such as “Sell by,” “Use by,” “Display until,” “Best before,” are causing the confusion.

So, The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) – a network of 400 of the biggest consumer goods companies across 70 countries – along with Champions 12.3 has agreed to standardize food date labels worldwide by 2020.

Champions 12.3 is a coalition of more than three dozen leaders across government, business and public organization that are finding wasy to achieve Target 12.3 of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, which calls on the world to “halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses” by 2030.

Companies that have signed the agreement include  Tesco, Kellogg, Walmart, Campbell Soup, Bimbo, Pick n Pay, Nestlé, Carrefour and Unilever.

“Kellogg Company is working to reduce food loss and waste along the production and supply chains, and we want to encourage consumers to be part of the solution too, ” said Maria Fernanda Mejia, President of Kellogg Latin America. “As a global food company, we work to reduce hunger, improve nutrition and protect the planet. 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 harmonized food labelling standards to help educate and empower consumers to prevent food waste, save their families money, and conserve resources to protect our planet.”

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

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 if used by”). The exact wording will be tailored to regional context

3. Consumer education to better understand what date labels mean

In addition to the labels on products, the Call to Action recommends companies partner with nonprofit organizations 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 many products are still safe to eat past the “Best if used by” date.

“Four years ago, Tesco was one of the first retailers to roll out single date coding across our fresh food and meat produce,” said Dave Lewis, Group Chief Executive of Tesco and Chair of Champions 12.3. “All the evidence has shown that streamlining date codes helps customers waste less food and it also reduces waste in our own operations. That’s why it’s so important we extend this practice to more companies in every country. Streamlining date labels worldwide by 2020 could be game-changing in the fight against global food waste.”

The average U.S. household with children spends $1,500  a year on food that’s thrown away. Standardizing 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 annoucement of the cooperation was made the 72nd United Nations General Assembly.  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.

Innovative initiatives are also taking off, especially in the private sector. A growing number of the 50 largest food companies now have active food loss and waste reduction programs. However, the report finds an insufficient number of governments and companies are measuring and reporting food loss and waste, a key step to identifying hotspots and knowing whether strategies are having impact.

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