Although consumers are aware of food expiration dates, there needs to be consumer education on the correct interpretation of “use by __,” “best by __,” or other food expiration terms. Some consumers interpret food expiration dates printed on the food package as absolute dates and throw foods away the day after the expiration date without determining existing food condition, resulting in increased food waste.
Several researchers have prominently recommended communication as a mitigation strategy. Roe and colleagues (in Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy in 2021) emphasized that consumer education should focus on food management and food preservation skills. Sharma and colleagues (in Resources, Conservation & Recycling in 2020) reiterated these areas for consumer education and added that there is a need to teach the public the relationship between shelf life information and food waste.
Brizi and Biraglia (in Personality and Individual Differences in 2021) encouraged policy makers to meet the needs of NFC by using precise and reassuring information rather than emphasizing distressing situations (e.g., the pandemic). These strategies are then pulled together to communicate the aim for a sustainable food system with “core principles” consisting of “reusing food and food waste and composting food to recycle nutrients.”
These strategies are not new, but rather all align under the same global issues—economic, social, and environmental. Consumers currently practice some of these strategies during the stressful times of the COVID-19 pandemic. But, will the consumer continue this behavior when the world has satisfactorily managed COVID-19 and returned to some semblance of pre-pandemic living? Or will consumers selectively choose practices that they find most convenient but produce the results that they are searching for, such as saving money, managing their health, and even improving their appearance and feel? And which practices will those be?
Only time will tell.