Date labeling food to help prevent food waste is important, but it’s not the “silver bullet” for reducing food waste, according to the Grocery Manufacturers Association, whose 300 member companies include Coca-Cola, General Mills and Kraft Foods.
Last week GMA’s senior director of sustainability Meghan Stasz testified at a US House Agriculture Committee hearing addressing the issue of food waste across the food supply chain.
The hearing comes several months after the US government set a goal to cut food waste in half by 2030 and one week after Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) introduced legislation to clarify dates on food labels and combat waste. The legislation would standardize food labels, requiring packaging for shelf-stable food to indicate “best if used by” and “expires on” for perishable foods such as raw meat and eggs.
GMA and the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) are already taking the lead on date labeling, Stasz said, testifying on behalf of the Food Waste Reduction Alliance, a 30-company initiative formed in 2011 by GMA, FMI and the National Restaurant Association. In 2014, GMA companies recycled nearly 94 percent of the food waste generated from manufacturing and in 2015 donated over 800 million pounds of food to food banks.
“Date labeling is important, and we’re addressing it,” Stasz said, adding that “date labeling is not THE solution to the food waste issue-in fact, it is estimated to account for some household food waste and therefore a small percentage of total food waste to landfill.”
There isn’t a “silver bullet” for solving the food waste problem, Stasz continued. “It needs to be tackled in a range of ways, and everyone has a role to play. Industry cannot solve this problem alone. Consumers are responsible for 44 percent of food waste sent to landfills. If we’re going to make a serious dent in food waste as a nation, we need to find ways to help consumers reduce waste.”
Stasz cited statistics showing that confusion around product date labeling accounts for only about 8 percent of total food waste sent to landfills by consumers.
Food loss and waste in the US accounts for about 31 percent — or 133 billion pounds — of the overall food supply available to retailers and consumers, according to the EPA and the US Department of Agriculture. Food loss and waste is single largest component of disposed US municipal solid waste, and accounts for a significant portion of US methane emissions. Landfills are the third largest source of methane in the US.