Saturday, August 3, 2013


Food waste is a topic of intense interest because many critics feel that if such wasted foods are saved it could feed millions of hungry people across the world. Organizations with noble intentions are indeed making voluntary efforts to redeem such foods where ever possible by organizing safe collection, storage and delivery system providing socour  to many needy people but the scale of operation is not very high because of many logistical problems encountered by them. "Expiry Date" or "Best Before Date" printed on the label of every packed food item is by far the most causative factor for food waste as consumers consider it as unfit for consumption once the product is past the declared date. Similarly consumer has always a tendency to avoid buying food products nearing the best before date and invariably such edible foods are destined for the landfills! In to day's well organized marketing system manufacturer, wholesale distributor and the retailer have a well established understanding regarding the time each one takes for delivering the finished product to the next player in the chain. Here is an example of a market in one of the rich countries in Asia, Japan where the present system is sought to be changed for reducing food waste.

"Japan's food industry currently follows a self-imposed "one-third rule" concerning products. For example, under the rule, producers and wholesalers must throw out products made on Jan. 1 that have a best-before date of March 31 if they cannot deliver those goods to retailers by Jan. 31--the first one-third of the period before the expiration date. Even if the wholesalers deliver the products in time, retailers discard the food items if they remain unsold until Feb. 28, which ends the second third of the expiry date. During the experiment, the companies will adopt a "one-half rule." That means the distribution of products made on Jan. 1 would be allowed until mid February, and retailers can sell the food even during March. The success of the experiment depends on whether Japanese consumers, who are known to be picky, are willing to buy the older products. The companies involved in the trial run include snack and beverage manufactures, such as Meiji Co. and Coca-Cola (Japan) Co., as well as Mitsubishi Shokuhin Co., Seven-Eleven Japan Co. and Aeon Retail Co".

It is not realized that best before date is only an indicative date beyond which the product may not have 100% eating quality in comparison to its freshly manufactured counterpart. But it does not mean that such products are unsafe measured by any yardstick. Food industry and the food authorities in many countries are forced to declare such expiry dates to ensure citizens get the best quality foods with minimum safety risks. Unfortunately no manufacturer will take legal responsibility if some thing happens to the consumer after consuming date expired food products. Probably there may be a need to revisit the provision of printing expiry date if a real attempt is to be made to reduce food waste through this route. Is it possible that the industry prints only dates beyond which the food may be unsafe? If this is practical the extent of food discarded can be significantly reduced. It may be worth looking at this option with all its attendant consequences. 


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