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Ministry to push for 'use-by dates' to cut food waste

Kimchi is being sold at a supermarket in Seoul. (Yonhap)
Kimchi is being sold at a supermarket in Seoul. (Yonhap)
The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said Sunday it would take steps to replace sell-by dates with the use-by dates in an effort to give food a longer shelf life and reduce food waste.

Sell-by dates on food products indicate the period of time said products can be distributed and sold. But use-by dates show how long products can be stored for and still used.

The latter often lasts longer than the former, though sell-by dates are what is currently used in the country.

Milk, for instance, often has a 10-day sell-by date. But a 2009 study by the Korea Consumer Agency found that it can last up to 50 days. The study also found that sliced cheese is safe to consume up to 70 days after its sell-by date.

Sunday’s announcement comes in celebration of the 2021 P4G Seoul Summit which takes place in the South Korean capital on Sunday and Monday. With P4G standing for Partnering for Green Growth & the Global Goals 2030, leaders from over 40 countries are taking part in a video conference.

The ministry said it would seek to revise related laws including the Act on Labeling and Advertising of Foods as part of steps to introduce a longer expiry date.

“Though food is still safe to consume after its sell-by date, consumers see it as a point after which food need to be thrown away, wasting consumable food products as a result,” one official at the Food Ministry said.

“By introducing a use-by date, it will contribute to reducing food waste and greenhouse gas emissions, helping protect the environment."

According to a study published in academic journal Science, food accounted for nearly 26 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2018. Some 18 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions were generated in the supply chain, the study showed.

The ministry also explained use-by dates have been adopted by other OECD countries including the European Union and Japan.

In a study released in February, the Korea Food Service Industry Research, nearly 7 in 10 restaurant owners agreed that a sell-by date needs to be replaced with a use-by date, citing less confusion and a drop in food waste costs.

The Food Ministry also said Sunday it would expand the range of edible insects eligible as food raw materials as part of efforts to secure more meat substitute protein products.

To help recycle food product packaging, the ministry will also change rules to allow recycled plastics to be used to make containers following a review as early as January next year.

By Yim Hyun-su (hyunsu@heraldcorp.com)
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