As food waste continues to be a global concern, the food manufacturing and processing industry has taken steps to reduce waste and eliminate consumer confusion surrounding product date labeling. Meghan Stasz, senior director of sustainability for the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association (GMA), addressed these issues in her testimony in front of the US House Agriculture Committee this week on behalf of the Food Waste Reduction Alliance (FWRA)—a cross-sector group founded by the Food Marketing Institute, National Restaurant Association and GMA.
Members of the Committee were looking to industry experts for background and guidance on food waste across the food supply chain. The hearing comes several months after the US government set a goal to cut food waste in half by 2030 and one week after legislation was introduced to clarify dates on food labels and combat waste.
“The food industry has already stepped forward and and made considerable progress in reducing food waste,” Stasz says. “The founding of the Food Waste Reduction Alliance in 2011 brought together manufacturers, retailers, restaurants and food service companies. We work across sectors to identify sources of food waste, increase the amount of food sent to food banks and decrease what is sent to landfills, and help other food companies find ways they can make an impact.”
In 2014, GMA companies recycled nearly 94 percent of the food waste generated from manufacturing and in 2015 donated over 800 million pounds of food to food banks.
“We know that more needs to be done, and our industry is taking new steps,” Stasz says. The boards of GMA and the Food Marketing Institute, which represents retailers, are making a renewed commitment this year to address product date labeling and reduce consumer confusion which can often lead to food waste.
“There is no silver bullet solution for food waste; it needs to be tackled in a range of ways, and everyone has a role to play,” she said. “Consumers are responsible for 44 percent of food waste sent to landfills. If we’re going to make a serious dent in food waste as a nation, we need to find ways to help consumers reduce waste.”
Stasz cited statistics showing that confusion around product date labeling accounts for only about eight percent of total food waste sent to landfills by consumers. While product date labeling changes may result in reduced consumer food waste, the majority of food waste continues to be from consumers so clearing up this confusion must be just one of several ways to combat the issue of moving forward.