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Food waste is a significant problem for many countries: The U.S, European countries and Asian countries. Most of us buy products, ingredients and other types of food from the supermarket and throw it away if it has passed its expiration date. Studies show that we are misinterpreting date labels and labels in general, and our food waste is incredibly harmful to the environment.

Expiration date labels in Europe vs the U.S

In Europe, date labels are usually marked with two signs: ‘use by’ and ‘best before’. The European Commission has analyzed several factors that trigger food waste, and numbers showed that 10% of food waste is because people misinterpret date labels. The report also explains that sometimes people do not understand the difference between the two signs. More measures need to be taken at national and union levels to prevent this waste.

In the U.S, date labels are not as standardized, and different states have different laws involving this situation. This means that, what is mandatory in one state, such as adding an expiration date on a certain food product, is not mandatory in another state. Some of the labels found on food are’ best by’, ‘sell by’, ‘best if used before’. These labels are also confusing for buyers and are often misinterpreted. A study conducted by the University of Harvard found that every year, 40 % of the food people buy in the U.S is thrown away. One big reason for food waste in the U.S is date labels. Just as in Europe, confusing food labels determine people to throw away products that are still safe to eat.

Better laws and a consensus can help.

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In both research studies, the researchers determined that if the date labels were more explicit, there would be less food waste at a global level. For example, this might mean that at the European Union level, all countries need to re-discuss food labeling and come up with a law at union level. In the U.S, all states should vote for a general law involving expiration date labelling, and thus, avoiding confusing people with so many different labels.

Elizabeth G. Cole
Elizabeth used to be an English teacher, but she left her old job so she could raise her children and get more involved with saving the environment. She is passionate about the Planet and loves to cover this topic, but also enjoys to write about family and children activities.