Date labeling confusion contributes to food waste

June 23, 2014

Date labeling variations on food products contribute to confusion and misunderstanding in the marketplace regarding how the dates on labels relate to food quality and safety, according to a scientific review paper in the July issue of Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety. This confusion and misunderstanding along with different regulatory date labeling frameworks, may detract from limited regulatory resources, cause financial loss, and contribute to significant food waste.

In the United States, the United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service (USDA/ERS) estimated that in 2010 about 133 billion pounds of food, which is about a third (31 percent) of the 430 billion pounds of edible food available at the retail and consumer levels, was not eaten as a result of being wasted (Buzby and others 2014). This loss had an estimated $161.6 billion in retail value and 141 trillion calories per year (or 1249 calories per American per day).

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that the amount of food loss and waste on a global scale is about one-third of food produced for human consumption, which translates into 1.3 billion metric tons of food produced for human consumption (FAO 2011).

The authors of the scientific review call for collaboration to address the challenges that food manufacturers, retailers, government officials, consumers and other stakeholders face as a result of the current date labeling situation. More specifically, they called for the following actions:
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Financial support for this scientific review paper was provided by Walmart. IFT also helped support the production of the article.

Institute of Food Technologists

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