Simplifying date labelling is a vital way to combat food waste

By Amy McDonnell

- Last updated on GMT

McDonnell: 'We must seize the opportunity to boost much broader understanding of how to combat food waste to help protect our planet.'
McDonnell: 'We must seize the opportunity to boost much broader understanding of how to combat food waste to help protect our planet.'

Related tags best before date Packaging & labelling

Amy McDonnell, social innovation and sustainability manager at Danone UK & Ireland, pleads the case for simplifying date labelling in order to combat food waste.

One third of all food produced around the world is never eaten. Not only is this a major moral concern – it’s also damaging our climate.

Global food waste produces more greenhouse gas than all commercial flights, and if food waste were a country, it would have the world’s third-biggest carbon footprint. That’s because when food is wasted, the energy and water it takes to grow, harvest, transport and package it is also wasted. And if food ends up going to landfill and rots, it produces harmful greenhouse gas.

Society’s window of opportunity to halt the worst impacts of climate change is fast closing. Human actions are threatening devastation to much of the natural world – as Earth Day (on 22nd April) will highlight. Yet despite the significant negative impact that food waste has on the planet, research by Love Food Hate Waste shows that only one third of UK respondents currently see a link between food waste and climate change.

Greater collaboration

We must seize the opportunity to boost much broader understanding of how to combat food waste to help protect our planet. Tackling the food waste challenge requires collaboration between food companies, retailers, manufacturers, suppliers, policymakers and consumers alike if we are to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goal of halving global food waste by 2030. Now is the time for every business to deliver real action and impact on this urgent issue.

In the UK, 70% of all wasted food happens in people’s homes, and expiry dates are responsible for 10% of all food waste across Europe1. Changing labelling can play a major positive role, empowering a better understanding of when food is still perfectly safe and good to eat. Food passed its ‘Use By’ is no longer safe to consume, whereas food passed its ‘Best Before’ may still be safely eaten, and misconceptions around this result in a huge amount of unnecessary waste.

At Danone UK & Ireland, we’ve made the decision to switch to ‘Best Before’ labels on our Dairy products, as yoghurts are safe to consume beyond their ‘Use By’ date label (if stored correctly).

This important step is part of our support for fellow B Corp, Too Good To Go’s ‘Look, Smell, Taste Don’t Waste’ campaign. By changing our date labelling, adding the Look, Smell, Taste, Don’t Waste logo and educating consumers through ongoing communications, we are encouraging people to have the confidence to use their judgment about whether food is still okay to eat.

Scrapping use by dates

A range of other food businesses and brands have taken similar steps – moving to Best Before labelling and becoming part of Too Good To Go’s campaign. We’ve also seen retailers taking action, including Morrisons, which scrapped ‘Use By’ dates on 90% of its own brand milk earlier this year. But we need many more organisations to join the movement, making a simple but significant change that can have a huge positive impact.

Of course, as well as empowering consumers, food businesses must reduce our own food waste and address food loss within our supply chains. At Danone UK & Ireland, we have committed to WRAP’s Target Measure Act food waste reduction roadmap, pledging to halve our food waste by 2030 across our operations.

As part of this, we strive to ensure that unavoidable food surplus gets redirected to communities in need – getting products to food banks, community fridges and other good causes while saving carbon emissions.

All food businesses must play our part in addressing the scale of our food waste challenge; from supporting the public to understand when food is still safe to eat, through to what happens across our operations. With the climate crisis worsening, there has never been a more critical time for action. We must all step up to the plate – and changing date labelling is an important part of the answe

Related topics Dairy Packaging & Labelling

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