- Nestle voiced its support Wednesday for legislation proposed in the House and Senate that aims to reduce food waste by standardizing date labels on food and beverage products. General Mills also announced its support for a national date labeling standard.
- The proposed bill, known as the Food Recovery Act of 2015, would override state laws and regulations concerning food code dating to create federal standards manufacturers would abide by in all states. Inconsistent terms like "use by," "sell by," "best by," and "expires on" create confusion for consumers and has contributed to 160 billion pounds of food prematurely thrown away in the U.S.
- Nestle's support is in line with other food waste reduction initiatives the company has engaged in, including the commitment to achieve zero waste to landfill in 100% of its production facilities by 2020.
Maggie McClain, director of media relations at the Grocery Manufacturers Association, said in an email regarding the bill, "GMA is reviewing this legislation and is taking into consideration the proposed draft revisions to the Codex general standards for date labeling. We look forward to working with Representative Pingree and Senator Blumenthal to find the best way to streamline date labeling language, reduce food waste and increase food donated to those in need."
The bill's provisions (Title IV, Sec. 401) would standardize the language used to introduce dates on a packaging, either "Best if Used By" for quality recommendations or "Expires on" for safety recommendations. In both instances, the date would then be followed by the statement "Manufacturer’s Suggestion Only" in the same size, font, and color as the date.
The labeling requirement would take investment and adjustment for the physical printing of the appropriate labels. What's less clear is how this might impact the shelf life determination process. Manufacturers already follow certain regulations in terms of determining shelf life code dates, such as the length of times a product takes to develop specified levels of a certain bacterial or chemical presence. But quality is more subjective.
Having to conform to a particular language may cause a manufacturer to revisit its shelf life code date determination processes and reform them to suit the new regulations. That could be another expense incurred as a result of the proposed legislation. But this could also bring greater conformity across the board in terms of what shelf life and quality mean to manufacturers and brands in individual product categories.
Other companies will likely follow in Nestle and General Mills' footsteps to support a national date labeling standard, in part to demonstrate support for sustainability and transparency. But such legislation could also help companies maintain product sales and protect bottom lines.
Nestle ranked No. 2 on Oxfam's list of the world's 10 largest companies in "Behind the Brands," the organization's annual report card of sustainability efforts in the food and beverage industry. Nestle's commitments to reduce food waste internally and its support of food waste reduction efforts on the consumer level contribute to that ranking.