At Bon Appétit Management Company, food waste is our foe. The 40% of food that goes unsold or uneaten in the United States is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, but it’s more than that. Food waste is an unproductive use of resources like water and energy, and its existence points to many other social and economic complexities in our food system and beyond. Wasted food has a huge opportunity cost when we recognize the billions of dollars spent to grow, process, transport, and dispose of food that goes to waste, along with the lost opportunity to address food insecurity for 1 in 8 Americans. This is a complicated problem that requires multiple solutions. The answers don’t have to be complicated or expensive though.
In our kitchens we have standardized protocols for putting dates on the food we cook and store so everyone knows which products to use first and when something is no longer safe to serve. Unfortunately, the dates on foods in the grocery store don’t follow a similarly standardized system. Best by, use by, sell by, and the many other phrases you see on packaged foods can all mean different things depending on the manufacturer. In fact, research shows confusion over date labels accounts for eight percent of consumer food waste, costing the country around $30 billion per year, according to the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), a nationwide, non-partisan advocacy organization and fellow member of the Zero Food Waste Coalition.
That’s why we recently signed onto PIRG’s letter supporting the Food Date Labeling Act, a bill introduced as part of the 2024 Farm Bill by Representative Chellie Pingree (D, Maine), which clarifies a date-labeling standard that applies to any food products in the United States with use-by date labels. Standardizing and clarifying what food date labels actually mean would be a huge step forward in making sure that perfectly good food does not go to waste.
Commonsense legislation like this is one inexpensive tool to curb food waste, and we’re pleased to support it while continuing our many other efforts and partnerships in this arena.
-Rose Benjamin, Strategic Projects and Waste Programs Manager