All restaurants have to deal with the issue of throwing away food at the end of the day. According to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a powerful environmental action group and the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic, confusing and inconsistent food date labeling causes restaurants to throw out significantly more food than is necessary.
In October of 2013, the NRDC and the Harvard Food Law and Policy clinic released a report discussing the efficacy of date expiration labels on food. The report focuses on the fact that food date labels are very confusing and suggests that as a result many consumers and businesses waste enormous amounts of food each year. Click here for the full report.
In fact, an NRDC article summarizing the report states that U.S consumers and businesses throw away “billions of pounds of food every year as a result of America’s dizzying array of food expiration labeling practices,” amounting to “nearly half our food.” The summary article also states that “[f]orty percent of the food produced [in the U.S.] never gets eaten” and argues that “[m]isinterpretation of labels is one of the key contributing factors to this waste.” Click here for the NRDC article.
The report points out that date labeling is virtually unregulated and that even when it is regulated, the specific rules vary from state to state due to the lack of a federal labeling standard. For example, the report notes that in Texas and many other states, there are no date label requirements for milk or dairy.
Following up on that report, the Houston Press published an article that discusses, in part, the issues that confusing date labeling can cause restaurants. The article points out that restaurants and other business are not allowed to use or sell food that is expired, whether it be a sell-by date or use-by date. As a result, many restaurants throw away large amounts of food that is still safe for human consumption. For the full Houston Press article, click here.
The report suggests that restaurants can help prevent food waste by either selling or donating food that is near its expiration date. More pointedly though, the report calls for action from the government to institute a standardized labeling system across the United States. While there are no doubt numerous opinions regarding the best way to improve food date labeling, the Houston Press article notes “that most experts, and restaurant owners, agree that the government should be doing more.”
What are your thoughts? Should there be a federal standard? Are there other ways to save from wasting food? Please let us know your thoughts!
About the author: Matthew Sanderson is a restaurant lawyer in Texas. “Good service with a smile” is his motto.