If you’re interested in sustainability, sooner or later you’ll end up talking about food waste. Solving the planet’s food waste problem would be a major step towards eliminating world hunger. Indeed, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, every year, the earth’s rich countries waste almost as much food in a year as the entire yearly net food production of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Taking care of food waste is also a growing industry

Realizing the dire nature of this problem, many organizations, communities and companies have begun collaborating to end it. A good illustration of this is at the NYC food waste fair held July 25th 2017 in New York City. It is the very first such fair dedicated to food waste, organized by the New York City Department of Sanitation.  It includes Panels and workshops on subjects ranging from tips to prevent food waste to commercial recycling and the many legal implications of dealing with waste food. All this to help eliminate the estimated 650,000 tons of food scraps produced by New York City businesses every year.

Food packaging date labels as a source of food waste

One of the workshops at this event brings up an important aspect of food packaging that has enormous ramifications: food date labels. In its presentation, the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic rightly points out that lacking binding U.S. federal standards, US manufacturers have created confusion as to when a product is still viable. Expressions such as “use-by”, “best by”, “best if used by” “best before”, “expires” and “sell by” are all in use but don’t mean the same thing.  A bill now before congress called the “Food Date Labelling Act” proposes the use of “quality dates”(not required) and “safety dates”(mandatory on certain foods). It has yet to be passed into law.

Date labels here in Canada

Here in Canada, there are certain mandatory expressions.  “Best before” means the product is of high quality before this date.  “Packaged on” must be accompanied with an expression of durable life. “Expiration date” is required on certain foods whose nutrient content can change significantly after a certain time.

What strategies are needed to reduce food waste?

Creating packaging that encourages timely consumption is a key to reducing food waste.  Packaging that clearly identifies best before dates and other important information is also more likely to be chosen.  Furthermore, strong choices in colour and texture as well as clever marketing can entice the customer to consume every morsel of your delicious product as quickly as possible.

IMS has vast experience in creating effective packaging and identification. From shrink sleeve to pressure sensitive labels to certification labels, our IMS experts will propose the best solution for your needs. Here are some of the strategies we’ve talked about in our past blogs

If you’d like to create packaging that is clear, conforms to existing regulations and jumps out at the customer (and not because it has past it’s expiry date!) then contact the experts at IMS. We’ll be happy to help!