Understanding The Complexities Of Wording On Your Food Packaging
Chuck Norris has recently turned his attention to a matter that concerns all consumers – deciphering the truth behind the language of food labelling.
In the US, a shocking 130 billion pounds in weight of food gets thrown away each year. In a survey conducted by SSRS, it was discovered that 70% of people discard food because it is past its expiry date. Furthermore, this percentage of consumers consigned their expired produce to the garbage because they believed that eating it beyond the specified date would result in them becoming unwell.
The Purpose Of Expiration Dates
However, in a recent blog post, Chuck Norris explains that this is not the case. Foods don’t expire as such, instead they begin to lose their freshness and flavour after a certain period of time has elapsed. Therefore, brands choose to put expiration dates on their food labels in order to preserve the reputation of the produce and to ensure that consumers come back for more. Foods may certainly taste unpleasant after they’ve ‘gone off’, but it would be extremely unlikely that they could put a person’s health at risk.
Banning Expiration Dates
The laws regarding food labelling in the US are somewhat confusing. Some states have laws that insist on expiry dates being placed on meat and milk products. However, this isn’t officially required by federal law. Therefore, various authorities in the US food industry, including the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute are calling upon companies to scrap this labelling method and instead use phrases such as ‘Best if used by’ or simply, ‘Use by’.
These suggested labels are similar to those used in the UK. Our Food Standards Agency explains that the ‘Best before date’ refers to the quality of the food, meaning that its freshness and texture should be preserved up until this date. In comparison, a ‘Use by’ date in the UK, is not a suggestion but a safety precaution. You can also freeze food up until the ‘Use by’ date, which acts as a pause button when safely storing produce to be eaten at a later date.
The use of language on food labels is also being scrutinised on both sides of the pond, particularly when it comes to the issue of supposedly ‘natural’ foods. What constitutes a natural product? Is it actually completely free from preservatives? The US Food and Drug Administration states that it does not object to “the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.” However, as the authority fails to formally identify the term, this means that it is not affected by law and can be found on food labels which haven’t officially had their produce verified. In the UK, a two-year report carried out by the Food Advisory Committee found that 75% of consumers found food labels which used wording such as natural, pure, traditional, authentic and even farmhouse, to be misleading.
With this information in mind, people will likely be even more confused than before. As well as checking their food labels, consumers may start having to conduct their own Internet research to find out exactly what is going into their shopping trolleys each week!