Big Companies Walmart, Nestle and Kellogg Make Changes to Food Expiration Labels

When customers buy groceries, they usually check the product first for the expiration date. When you pick up a milk carton or a carton of eggs, there’s usually a label that reads along the lines of, “Sell by,” “Display until” or “Best before.” It can be unclear as to whether the label is meant for the customer or the retailer, resulting in perfectly good food ending in the trash because the customer thinks it is expired. That’s where the lines get blurry.

This month, the Board of Directors for the Consumer Good Forum (CFG), a network of 400 of the biggest consumer goods companies, approved a Call to Action to standardize food date labels worldwide by 2020.

The Consumer Good Forum wants to make food labels easier for customers

Jumping on board with this Call to Action are big companies Walmart, Nestle, Kellogg, Bimbo, Tesco and Campbell, among others. They pledged to specify their labels and make them easier to understand for the customer. For example, the “Use by” label will be used for perishable foods you shouldn’t eat after a certain date, and “Best if used by” for goods that will be better if you consume them by a specific time.

According to a press release, the Call to Action also recommends companies partner with nonprofit organizations and government agencies to educate consumers about how to interpret date labels. Education efforts could include in-store displays, web materials and public service announcements.

With confusing labels on products, $29 billion in food gets thrown away each year. An estimated 40% of food that is bought in the U.S. is thrown out.

“We believe simplified and consistent date labeling will help us get one step closer to meeting our resolution to halve food waste by 2025 while also helping reduce confusion for consumers,” said Peter Freedman, Managing Director of The Consumer Goods Forum in a press release.

The Consumer Goods Forum is a global industry network that is driven by its members to encourage the global adoption of practices and standards that serves the consumer goods industry worldwide. It brings together the CEOs and senior management of some 400 retailers, manufacturers, service providers and other stakeholders across 70 countries.