Several countries are asking the European Commission to exempt some products like long-life produce from the mandatory “best before” date labels because they lead to food waste. According to a discussion paper issued by the Netherlands and Sweden and backed by Austria, Denmark, Germany and Luxembourg, many food products are still edible after the labeled date, but consumers throw them away because of safety concerns.
The European Union annually discards about 89 million metric tons of edible food. In the U.S., food waste comprises the greatest volume of discards going into landfills after paper, reports the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In 2012, this country generated 36 million tons of food waste, but only 3 percent of this waste stream was diverted from landfills. A 2013 report co-authored by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic proposes that producers and retailers take other steps to prevent the discarding of good food.