Food waste is a growing issue around the world. Food is wasted during production, harvesting, processing, distribution and consumption. The majority of food waste occurs during consumption where food is thrown out because it is not eaten or unsold. A lot of consumers will throw out food if they see it’s gone past its expiry date, but most of the time the food is still good to eat. This is where Unilever, a big player in the food market has decided to make a change. Instead of having just a ‘best before’ label, they will add an ‘often good after’ label so that consumers will have another look at the product and if it still looks like it’s in good condition, hopefully, it won’t be thrown away.
The decision to add the ‘often good after’ label is most likely prompted by a large amount of food waste which occurs on the consumer end. Of all the food produce that makes it to the consumer, around 30% – 50% of it is thrown out resulting in an estimated 1.3 billion tonnes of food being wasted each year. A big problem in a world where many are starving.
Unilever has collaborated with Too Good To Go and other players in the food industry to develop the ‘often good after’ packaging label. As well as Unilever, other food manufacturers that are taking the step of adopting this labelling procedure include Carlsberg and Arla Foods.
Where Food Waste Occurs
Waste occurs during production from mechanical damage where farming vehicles and equipment accidentally damage fruits and vegetables. Other causes of food waste during production include spilling crops, insect attacks and diseases which affect crop growth. Losses to animal agriculture from early deaths and disease are also a cause of food waste.
Losses occur here from handling the harvest and transportation to processing centres. For animals, this also includes when meat goes off at processing centres.
During processing food can be processed in various different ways through peeling, boiling, slicing, drying, canning, smoking, salting, sorting and more. Through these processes, some food is wasted.
At market centres, some food tends to rot and gets thrown away. At supermarkets and shops, when food reaches its expiry date its thrown away.
Most food is thrown away on the consumer end. Unwanted food or food that expires at home is thrown away.
Food Waste And Labelling
Part of the reason for consumer waste is that most consumers don’t know the difference between ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ labels. ‘Use by’ is an expiry label. It means that if the consumer consumes the food after the stated date they could potentially fall seriously ill from doing so. On the other hand ‘best before’ suggests that the food should be consumed before the stated date, but it can be consumed after the suggested date if the food looks, smells and tastes good. This confusion in food labelling is one of the main reasons for lots of food waste at the consumer end.
The duration in which a food is safe to eat after buying also depends on how the food is stored. Food which is stored in the freezer will be suitable for consumption for a longer period of time than food stored in the fridge due to the colder temperatures.
‘Often Good After’
This addition to food labelling is likely to be rolled out in the Nordic markets first and slowly rolled across the world. These labels are likely to make the consumer rethink about whether the food should be thrown away or if it can be safely eaten without any ill effects I hope that the addition is successful in reducing food waste as this will also reduce packaging waste as well which is another problem!
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