Food firms urged to simplify food date labels worldwide by 2020

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

Consumers are often confused by ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ date labels
Consumers are often confused by ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ date labels

Related tags Food safety Tesco

Food companies have been urged to simplify food date labels worldwide by 2020, by the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), which counts Tesco, Kellogg, Walmart, Nestlé, Carrefour and Unilever among its members.

The CGF last month called for companies to simplify ‘sell by’, ‘display until’ and ‘best before’ dates, which can cause confusion and cost families huge amounts through unnecessarily wasted food.

It urged retailers and food producers to take three important steps to simplify date labels and reduce food waste by 2020: use only one label at a time; make a choice of two labels – one expiration date for perishable items (eg ‘use by’) and one food quality indicator for non-perishable items (eg ‘best if used by’); and undertake consumer education, so that they better understand what date labels mean.

Important steps to simplify date labels

At meetings in New York last month, the CGF – a network of 400 of the biggest consumer goods companies across 70 countries, along with Champions 12.3 – a coalition of more than three dozen leaders across governments, business and civil society, approved the call to standardise food date labels worldwide by 2020.

It aims to resolve consumer confusion over, food safety ‘use by’ labels, ‘best before’ quality labels, and retailer ‘sell by’ and ‘display until’ labels.

Companies were also urged to partner with non-profit organisations and government agencies to educate consumers on how to interpret date labels.

Educate consumers

“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, Tesco group chief executive and chair of Champions 12.3.

“All the evidence from WRAP​ [the UK Waste & Resources Action Programme] and our own Tesco research 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.”

Around 1.3bn tonnes of food worldwide is wasted each year.

Read the views of Food Manufacture’s​ editor Rick Pendrous on the topic here.​ 

Related topics Fresh produce

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