Corporate giants agree to streamline food date labels by 2020

Top multinationals including Tesco, Kellogg and Walmart are among 400 consumer goods firms to have today (20 September) committed to simplify food date labels globally by 2020.

The proposals from industry network the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) call for retailers and food producers to use one label at a time, either “use by” for perishable items or “best before” for non-perishables.

Businesses are also urged to work with governments to educate consumers about how to interpret date labels. Evidence suggests that confusion around date labels on food products costs US families up to $29bn annually.

“Now more than ever is the time for business to play a leading role in tackling food waste,” said CGF managing director Peter Freedman. “This is an issue that can only truly be tackled by collaboration across the value chain.

“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.”

‘No time to lose’

The call to action was made in partnership with Champions 12:3, the organisation set up to monitor progress over the SDG target to halve global food waste and reduce food loss by 2030.

A separate new report from Champions 12:3 has found that nearly 60% of the world’s largest food businesses have set reduction targets. But the report suggests that not enough companies or governments are measuring and reporting food loss and waste, a key tool in analysing whether strategies are paying dividends.

“The report we co-authored with WRI shows we are moving in the right direction, but we need to build momentum quickly,” said Champions 12:3 member and WRAP chief executive Marcus Gover. “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.”

Building momentum

Around 1.3 billion tonnes of food is estimated to be lost or wasted each year, while in the UK, the average household spends £700 a year on wasted food.

There are clear signs of momentum building within the private sector behind the movement to tackle food waste. US-based retail giants including PepsiCo, General Mills, Unilever and Kellogg have all pledged to halve the amount on food waste produced within their operations by 2030.

The world’s biggest furniture retailer Ikea has gone a step further, aiming to achieve this target by 2020. In June, the Swedish firm launched a new smart device-based initiative which will enable Ikea colleagues to find solutions to prevent food being thrown away.

George Ogleby

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