In a bid to reduce food waste, the European Commission has oddly proposed a revision of the rules on the “best before” date for food, adding the words “often good beyond” to the “best before” date.
The idea is to remind people that even after the date on the label, some products, if stored properly, may still be edible and should not be thrown away, leaving it up to the consumer to decide whether or not to consume them.
The idea itself would be good if consumers had enough knowledge to make an informed choice, but the increasing use of industrial food has instead led people in the opposite direction by getting them used to people telling them what they can and cannot do.
To now expect the same people to be able to tell whether a food is good and should be eaten or not seems ridiculous, to say the least.
And what is meant by ‘good’?
That it is edible? That it does no harm, even if it has lost much of its nutritional value, taste and organoleptic qualities?
But feeding does not mean ‘eating just to defecate’, it means providing the body with the nutrients it needs to live, possibly well, and perhaps to enjoy eating and the sociality associated with eating.
But let’s also talk about the amount of waste.
In Italy, 75g per person per day is thrown away at home, which is not much, especially if you cook at home from raw ingredients (Waste watcher link… https://www.sprecozero.it/news/il-caso-italia-2023-vale-oltre-9-miliardi-e-lo-spreco-di-cibo-in-italia-la-nuova-indagine-waste-watcher-racconta-anche-i-consumi-degli-italiani/).
In Europe, 10% of food waste is due to misinterpretation of labels: in the case of ‘best-before’ dates, people cautiously do not consume food that is out of date.
10% of 75 grams equates to a saving of 7.5 grams per person per day as a target to aim for.
Yes, 7.5 grams, we probably don’t even have a household scale capable of weighing them.
To reduce waste, we need to make everyone aware of buying less and buying better.
Once people have been re-educated to recognise the condition of food in a certain and correct way, we will explain to them that in some cases they can judge for themselves by making small exceptions to what is indicated on the labels by the producers, the only ones who really know what they have sold us.
Throw away less? Definitely.
Raising awareness so that people don’t throw food away unnecessarily, learn to prepare the right quantities and recycle leftovers in imaginative ways, as our grandmothers always did? Absolutely.
Trying to instil some kind of subtle guilt, as if each of us is the cause of the problem, absolutely not.
Ten million tonnes of fish wasted every year despite declining fish stocks (2017-06-29)
Most of a fish is discarded by the fisheries industry (2016-12-12)
Marco Dal Negro
This post is also available in: Italian