Thursday, 20 January, 2022

Changing the expiration dates, a solution to reduce food waste?

Has the expiration date system expired? Actors in the fight against food waste are in any case calling for changes to be made. And for good reason. At present, products can have two types of date: the DLC (use by date) after which the product has expired and can no longer be consumed on the one hand and the DDM (date of minimum durability) after which the product is still safe for a while even though it may have lost a little in quality. But between “To be consumed until” for the first and “To be consumed preferably before” for the second, there is enough to lose the consumer.

Confusion that contributes to “20% of waste in homes”, pointed out in October to Challenges Rose Boursier-Wyler, from the start-up Too Good To Go and in charge of advocacy on expiry dates. The platform which fights against food waste by connecting consumers and traders who offer them unsold baskets at broken prices at the end of the day is publishing a white paper on the subject this Monday, February 11, co-signed by France Nature Environment. One more step, a few months after Too Good To Go launched a petition signed by more than 60,000 people. Entitled #ChangeTaDate, it called for adding after “Best before …” the words “but always good after” to clarify the situation. A proposal included in the white paper alongside other avenues such as consultation by interprofessional organizations to harmonize expiry dates or even consumer awareness of this issue.

A waste that costs 12 to 20 billion euros

It must be said that the issue around food waste is particularly strong: in France, it corresponds to 20 kg of waste per year and per person, including 7 kg of food products still packaged according to ADEME! A waste which also weighs heavily financially: its cost is estimated between 100 and 160 euros per year and per person, that is to say 12 to 20 billion euros in total. Would reforming the expiry dates allow a significant reduction in waste? If the awareness campaign is well done, Rose Boursier-Wyler has “the intuition” that the new expiration dates could only contribute to “5%” of waste in homes and no longer to 20%. Adding an additional day to the shelf life of products would reduce food waste generated by expiration dates by 20%, also notes Too Good To Go. Consequence: 80,000 tonnes of food saved for distributors with a financial gain of 100 million euros and a reduction in waste of 170,000 kilos in households, a gain of 350,000 euros depending on the application.

Waste is a problem to which large retailers are increasingly aware. A recent Ipsos study commissioned by Comerso, a company which supports companies in particular towards Zero Waste, thus showed the growth of anti-waste actions in supermarkets: 7.2 actions on average per store compared to 5.4 in 2017. Carrefour s’ was notably publicly engaged alongside Too Good To Go a few months ago. The sign which extended the DLC or the DDM of 400 of its fresh or grocery products – and removed the DDM on 100 other products such as sugar or vinegar – “calls on consumers to sign and relay massively the #ChangeTaDate petition “according to a press release and involves them on social networks to choose a new formula to replace” To be consumed preferably before “.

Smart tablets

The fight against food waste is mobilizing… and initiatives are flourishing to stop it. In addition to Too Good To Go, many apps have emerged in recent years such as The Food Life launched a year ago and which uses mapping to facilitate the connection between supermarkets and charities about unsold items, Zero-waste for individuals and supermarkets or even HopHopFood with its application for donations between individuals to name a few. All the more so since the fight against food waste is also one of the main policy axes: in 2013, a target of halving food waste by 2025 was notably set. And the Food Law adopted definitively on October 2 continues this logic with a measure aimed in particular at making doggy-bags compulsory.

With its 3 million downloads in two years, its 4,500 partner merchants and its 2.5 million meals saved since its launch, Too Good To Go wants to go further in the fight against food waste and also plans to write a white paper on expiry dates by the end of the year for the government. What if the expiration dates eventually disappear completely? The Nantes-based company Cryolog has developed a smart label with a green dot signifying that the product is still edible, and a red dot that it is safe to throw away. A pastille which above all makes it possible to guarantee that the cold chain has been respected, which convinced Franprix, for example, for its e-commerce orders. Will these smart technologies eventually replace DLC and DDM? A study from the University of Bonn estimates that this type of smart label could reduce food waste by 35%.

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