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Organizations call on food companies to simplify date labels

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The Consumer Goods Forum and Champions 12.3 are calling on food companies worldwide to simplify date labels and help reduce food waste and greenhouse gases

Closeup of best before stamp on the can

New York City – Two large consumer organizations are calling on the food industry to simplify date labels by 2020.

In a media release, the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) and Champions 12.3 have both approved standardizing food date labels worldwide.

CGF represents a network of 400 consumer goods companies across 70 countries, and Champions 12.3 is a coalition of more than three dozen leaders from government, business and civil society. (Champions 12.3 is working to achieve Target 12.3 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. One of its goals is to “halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses by 2030.”)

In the statement, both groups explain that “sell by, use by, display until, best before” can be confusing for consumers.


Both groups are calling on industry to “take three important steps to simplify date labels and reduce food waste.”

The steps as outlined in the statement are:

  1. Only one label at a time
  2. Choice of two labels: one expiration date for perishable items (e.g. “Use by”) and one food quality indicator for non-perishable items (e.g., “Best if used by“). The exact wording will be tailored to regional context
  3. Consumer education to better understand what date labels mean

The groups are also recommending that “companies partner with non-profit organizations and government agencies to educate consumers about how to interpret date labels.”

For instance, companies can use in-store displays, websites and public service announcements to get the message out.

As the statement explains, most consumers don’t realize that “products are still safe to eat past the ‘Best if used by’ date.”

It’s estimated that 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted or lost each year around the world, says the statement. In the U.S. about US$1,500 worth of food is lost per year per household.

The groups suggest that date labels are a “simple and effective way to reduce the amount of edible food thrown out by households, saving them money and reducing their environmental footprint.”

In fact, food loss and waste, says the statement, “is a major contributor to climate change, emitting eight per cent of annual greenhouse gases.”

The groups made the announcement at a Champions 12.3 event in New York at The Rockefeller Foundation during Climate Week and the 72nd UN General Assembly.

For more information, click here.

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