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Waste Trimming

Walmart's changing its package labels to combat food waste
Photo: Rusty Clark via Flickr
Walmart

Approximately one-third of food produced globally goes to waste annually. In the U.S., 20 percent of that food waste is attributed to confusing labeling—think best-by, use-by and other labels—leading consumers to throw away safe and edible food to the tune of $29 billion each year. A recent bill in Congress proposed standardizing labels on food to make things clearer, and one of the country’s largest food sellers, Walmart, is already taking strides to change things.

Last year, Walmart asked suppliers for the company’s house brand, Great Value, to change its labels on nonperishable foods to say “best if used by,” meaning the item hasn’t gone bad but the quality starts to deteriorate by that date. Next month, this wording will become mandatory for its suppliers, The Guardian reports. So far, at least 70 percent have complied. Walmart has also started airing a 30-second video at the checkout that explains the new label to customers and offers other suggestions for cutting down on food waste, like freezing leftovers. The message has already been been viewed 10 million times.

It’s too early to tell how the video and new labels might impact the food waste of its customers, but as Walmart’s VP for food safety, Frank Yiannas, puts it, “About 21 percent of food wasted at home is due to confusion over date labels. Any dent we can make on this figure is a good thing.”

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