Food waste is a massive issue in America and a huge part of the problem is the confusion of when food actually goes bad, thanks in part to the ambiguous “sell by”, “best used before”, and “use by” labels on food. Many have speculated these vague designations cause people to unnecessarily throw out food out of fear of expiration. To help curb this issue, 50 of the largest food and retail companies in the world including Walmart and Nestle are changing their labels to exclusively say “use by” in an effort to remove any possible misunderstanding for consumers.
The Consumer Goods Forum Board, which includes the 50 companies who will now be making the change to “use by”, voted unanimously on September 20 to remove any other expiration designations. The Board expressed excitement about the change in an official statement, which said, “Standardizing food date labels is a simple and effective way to reduce the amount of edible food thrown out by households, saving them money and reducing their environmental footprint.”
While this change might seem insignificant, its impact could be huge when you realize that Americans throw out an estimated 40 percent of the food that they buy. Wasting this much food is obviously costing consumers large amounts of money, as it is estimated that the average American family throws out $1,500 worth of groceries every year.
Switching to “use by” could help American families start saving money immediately, especially since Walmart has agreed to make the change. The chain store has over 5,000 stores and clubs nationwide and has steadily established itself as one of the major players in the grocery store market. Back in May, Loop Capital analyst Andrew Wolf estimated that Walmart now has a “21.5 percent market share in the U.S. traditional grocery industry.” This would mean nearly a quarter of all groceries purchased in America now have labeling that won’t make consumers prematurely toss out their food.
In addition to costing families thousands of dollars, wasting food takes a huge toll on the environment, as global food waste is estimated to contribute to eight percent of annual greenhouse gases. So next time you buy groceries at Walmart, you can shop with the knowledge that you’re making the world a better place and saving your family a nice little chunk of change at the same damn time.