Reducing food waste with standardised expiry date labels
The average household spends $1500 a year on food that is thrown out, due to confusion regarding date labels on products, with a recent study revealing that 84% of households’ waste food is based on its expiry date.
Common reasons for food wastage include damaged produce, produce not meeting supplier standards or low demand, with the main reason due to misleading date labels, with $16 billion worth of food wasted because of this. With millions of dollars’ worth of perfectly edible food filling landfills, standardising food date labels across all supermarkets and stores could help solve the problem.
“Best before” and “use-by” labels indicate that a product is still safe to eat after the specified date; however, they are often thought to indicate that food is unsafe to consumer after a certain date. A use-by date on a product is a safety risk and meat, fish and dairy products should all be eaten on or before the specified date. However, labels like “expiry”, “sell by” and “display until” add confusion, despite not affecting the consumer, only the outlet selling the product for stock control purposes.
Food manufacturers can also reduce food waste through implementing traceability software to track and record data of food produce through all stages of production, processing and distribution to the consumer. The concept of ‘farm to fork’ is becoming increasingly popular, as it allows consumers to track when their milk was produced and which farm it came from, thereby reducing how much safe-to-eat food is wasted.
Traceability software such as Manufacturing Operations Management suite (MOM) is offered by ABB, creating a digital trace of a product by integrating all features into a database.
With the software, farmers could log all information of their livestock into a central system, including identification number, the age of the animal, what date it was milked, the date of packaging and where it has been distributed.
A QR (quick response) code or barcode storing the information could be printed out and applied to the packaging. Once the product is on supermarket shelves, consumers can scan the code to view the product data.
It is important that food manufacturers support the reduction of food waste by implementing standardised date labels and traceability. Both can educate consumers about a product’s journey and process, allowing them to make an informed decision when it comes to wasting food.
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