Emily Broad Leib is an assistant clinical law professor, director of the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic, and deputy director of the Harvard Law School Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation. She is on Twitter.
Multiple policies could be implemented to address food waste and its impacts on the environment, food security, and our climate. In particular, we should eliminate laws that cause healthy food to go to waste, incentivize food donation and, when needed, enact penalties for senseless food waste.
Let’s start with consumer confusion, and the misguided laws regarding food date labels. Eighty four percent of consumers report they frequently throw food away after the sell-by date has passed, despite date labels being indicators of freshness, not safety. What’s more, in the absence of federal law on date labels, no two states have the same date label rules. Several states even restrict or ban the sale or donation of past-date foods. Federal legislation is needed to eliminate state laws that require past-date — but still safe — foods to be wasted, and to standardize date labels so they are clearer to consumers.