Label misinterpretation causes huge food wastage | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Dough Rauch, former president of Trader Joe’s, a chain of specialty groceries in the United States, is opening a new store that will prepare and repackage perfectly edible food thrown out by retailers and sell it at deeply discounted prices.


Rauch’s particular concern, according to  the website The Salt of the American National Public Radio, is the huge amount of food thrown away because of the “sell-by” dates stamped on them. Grocers fear, and with good reason, that consumers will not buy anything past its “sell-by” date even if it is just the day after.


Rauch’s decision was partly influenced by a new report coauthored by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic that says Americans misinterpret labels and waste large quantities of food.


About a third of the world’s food goes to waste every year and Americans throw away about 40 percent of their food. The report finds that billions of dollars are wasted because of food expiration date labeling practices.


A key finding is that more than 90 per cent of Americans may be prematurely tossing food because they misinterpret food labels as indicators of food safety. Many Filipino consumers share the view—they think that food is no longer edible when the “use by” or “best before” dates have passed.


But, as the study’s authors point out, for most food products, manufacturers are free to determine the date shelf life according to their own methods. The study,  “The Dating Game: How Confusing Food Date Labels Lead to Food Waste in America,” notes federal and state laws related to date labels are rather loose, as it calls for  a new system of food date labeling.


The report says, because of poorly regulated and inconsistent labels, consumers get the impression food is no longer edible when the sell-by or best-by date has passed even if the label does not actually indicate that the product is unsafe to eat.


The study’s authors say “sell-by” dates are meant more to guide retailers when to replenish their stocks. While “best before” and “use by” dates are intended for consumers, they are not biblical truths but are often just a manufacturer’s estimate of a date after which food will no longer be at peak quality. It is not an accurate date of spoiling or an indication that food is unsafe.


Companies, according to the study, set their own methods to determine the dates.


It is probably the same in the Philippines—manufacturers basically set “best before” or “use-by” dates from “guesstimates.” The information is helpful, of course, but consumers should use their senses—sight, smell and taste—to determine if food is still edible instead of throwing it away immediately and wasting valuable resource just because it is passed the “best before” or “use-by” date.


DFA satellite office


The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has opened a satellite office in Western Visayas on the third level of Robinsons Place Bacolod on Mandalagan St., Bacolod City. Open 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Monday-Friday, the office will accept applications for new passports and renewal, passport certification.


Robinsons Malls, a division of Robinsons Land Corp., hosts through its Lingkod Pinoy Centers nationwide several government agencies, including the National Bureau of Investigation, Philippine Health Insurance Corp., Pag-Ibig Fund, Social Security System, Government Service Insurance System and Philippine Postal Corp.



Send letters to The Consumer, Lifestyle Section, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 1098 Chino Roces Ave. cor. Mascardo and Yague Sts., 1204 Makati City; fax 8974793/94; or e-mail [email protected]

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