The group thinks using "Use By" and "Best if Used By" as the only two terms to indicate an item's safety will help cut down on food waste.

Charlie Heller
September 20, 2017

To fight food waste, a network of the world's largest food companies wants to change how food is labeled. Or more specifically, reports NPR, what those labels say.

Confusion over what the current jumble of terms like "sell by," "use by," "best before," "better if used by," "best by," and "expires on" actually mean are a major contributor to the huge problem of food waste. Currently, around 133 billion pounds of food is wasted each year in the U.S. alone, in part because of how much perfectly good food we throw away erroneously thinking it's no longer safe to eat because of labeling.

The average family spends an estimated $1,500 on food they throw away, a figure which the Consumer Goods Forum hopes to drastically cut down. The network of 400 food and consumer goods companies like Walmart, Kellogg, and Amazon is asking food retailers and producers to reduce the labels on food packaging to two standard phrases. "Best if Used By" will indicate the quality of the food, meaning that while it won't taste as good as it did at its prime, it will still be perfectly safe to eat. "Use By," on the other hand, means the product is safe to consume until that date, and should be thrown out after.

While the world produces more than enough food to feed every single person on it, almost a billion still go hungry every day. While food waste isn't the only cause, it doesn't help that over 1.3 billion tons of food is lost or wasted around the world every year, according to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization.

Recently, growing awareness of the issue has seen celebrity chefs lobbying governments, scientists trying to turn food waste into fuel for cars, and startups attempting to turn food waste into new, edible food. Labeling is just one tool of many, but the simple fix could go a long way to making your ingredients last as long as they should.