Use-by dates, shelf life and food waste

Published 22 August 2018

2.9 trillion pounds of food is wasted every year, according to the United Nations. That’s the same weight as around 120.8 million elephants, 7.2 million blue whales or 7.4 trillion bags of salad. But, consumers aren’t the only ones responsible for this waste, it is occurring across the entire food supply chain.

Food manufacturers are massively contributing to this waste if they are not making the best use of trimmings and rejects. Let’s say a commercial bakery wastes one gram of flour for every one hundred baguettes it produces. This doesn’t seem like much, does it? However, considering 32 million baguettes are consumed every day — and that’s just in France — you can see how this small wastage could stack up.

Similarly, the way manufacturers package food may be contributing to waste because the packaging is not always optimal for shelf life. Retailers also face problems associated with product shelf life, inappropriate quality control, overstocking and inaccurate forecasting issues. These can all lead to food being thrown away, often before it is even stacked on the supermarket aisles.

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