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Sustainable Converting


organisation Campden BRI makes it clear that consumers should not consume a product after its ‘use by’ date, owing to safety concerns. However, best before is – according to the Food Standards Agency (FSA) – about “quality and not safety”. This advice is similar in France, with the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety citing that ‘use by’ dates must be respected, with anything beyond that date “legally unfit for consumption since it may represent a health risk for the consumer”.


It is beneficial to understand how product shelf life is determined to understand the relevance and importance of these date labels. According to Campden BRI, there are many forms of analysis to set the ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ date of a product. For ‘use by’ dates, a shelf-life test can be conducted where the product is packed and then subjected to microbiological-testing over a specific period. Once microbiological substances get beyond certain levels, the product is then considered ‘end of life’. Other forms of testing include predictive modelling, where software is used to predict the shelf life of a product, or a challenge test, where microorganisms are introduced into a packed product to see if they will grow. For ‘best before’ dates, tests can be conducted: a sensory assessment judges the appearance, odour, flavour, and mouth feel of products; texture analysis, which tests for staleness in bakery products; and chemical analysis, which assesses aspects such as taint and rancidity in a product’s flavour profile. The quality aspect of ‘best before’ dating has led some to believe that these dates are arbitrary, and even encourage food waste. However, WRAP cites that the presence of a date label of any type makes people less likely to discard food before the date, suggesting that these dates could play a role in the fight against food waste. In the EU, there is currently no legal requirement for fresh, uncut fruit and vegetables to have a date label, using a date code on short-life products with limited time for consumption can encourage consumers to eat products before the food spoils. WRAP recommends removing date labels from fresh produce, where appropriate, and encouraging people to judge when to eat fresh produce.


INTERNATIONAL INITIATIVES Across the globe, organisations have been working hard to address consumer


confusion surrounding date labelling, in a bid to reduce food waste. In the UK, the Love Food Hate Waste campaign aims to raise awareness of the need to reduce food waste and provides practical advice to help individuals waste less food. While Danish organisation Too Good To Go works with a multitude of other countries, including Norway, Austria, Switzerland, Portugal, and Poland, to reduce food waste.


The organisation campaigns for clearer date labelling, as well as initiatives enabling local stores, cafes, and restaurants to sell or donate surplus food rather than letting it go to waste. In a recent whitepaper, “Expiration dates, an outdated idea?” the organisation supports WRAP’s research by stating that 49% of Europeans think that better and clearer information on the meaning of ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ dates would help them waste less food at home.


Significant work has been undertaken to combat this subjective cause of waste including the ‘Often Good After’ campaign which reminds consumers that food may still be edible after that specified date if it smells and tastes fine.


The ‘Often Good After’ campaign encourages consumers to trust their senses to test the shelf life of the product. A number of food manufacturers, including Unilever, Carlsberg, and Arla Foods, have worked collaboratively with Too Good To Go to bring the initiative to life. Carlsberg and Arla Foods added an ‘Often Good After’ date to certain beers and milk products, and Unilever adopted the label for its three Knorr rice noodle mini-meals.


A LOOK INTO ALTERNATIVES As many food manufacturers welcome international initiatives to reduce waste, work is also being undertaken behind the scenes to investigate alternative packaging materials to plastic. Alternative packaging may extend the shelf life of many products; not only to provide convenience but also to minimise waste. Many industry bodies, have spoken out about the pressure facing companies to reduce plastic use whilst not increasing food waste.


The industry – including both food manufacturers and grocery retailers – has become increasingly aware that there could be an increase in food waste due to the reduction in plastics. As the industry learns more about the alternatives to plastics, this could change. Currently, some ‘best before’ dates for new packaging materials


are being predicted, often giving products a shorter shelf life to begin with, which is then extended as the study progresses. The use of alternative packaging is being supported by groups and initiatives, such as NanoPack, an EU-funded project seeking to extend the shelf life of products with the use of active food packaging technologies. Additional methodologies include the use of plant- or food-based materials in packaging films, protective coatings, and the use of antioxidant nanoparticles, as discussed in a recent report by PreScouter. Whilst this is all vital work, the next step when using any material, as stated by Campden BRI, needs to be re-establishing the product’s shelf life. If using alternative materials, this should also entail assessing the packaging material itself, as well as the food packed within. This is extremely important when considering the correct date coding for these products, to ensure that food does not spoil before it gets to the consumer.


CONCLUSION


Food manufacturers are clearly on a journey, and many are demonstrating their commitment to reducing food waste by working collaboratively with organisations that are making a mark in the area. We’ve seen many initiatives and industry organisations investigating alternative packaging materials, seeking to address the confusion surrounding date marking in a bid to both reduce food waste and make food packaging more sustainable, showing that steps are being taken in the right direction. As regulations continue to change, food and beverage manufacturers should strive to work with organisations that have up to date knowledge of date coding requirements, and coding and marking regulations, in order to remain compliant and contribute to the global goal of reducing food waste.


u domino-printing.com


convertermag.com


December/January 2021


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