Food companies to standardize date labels

(Reuters) - A group of consumer goods makers and retailers including Kellogg Co K.N, Wal-Mart Stores Inc WMT.N, Nestle SA NESN.S and Unilever Plc ULVR.L plans to simplify and standardize food date labels to reduce food wastage.

The standardized labeling to be put in place would use one expiration date on perishable items and one food quality indicator for non-perishable items, the Consumer Goods Forum said in a statement on Wednesday.

The exact wording of the labels would be region specific.

Confusion over date labels on food products costs families up to $29 billion annually in the United States alone, according to the forum, which represents some 400 of the world’s largest retailers and manufacturers from 70 countries.

“Simplifying food date labels is an important step forward in preventing food waste, and will help end the confusion related to ‘sell by’ dates,” Maria Fernanda Mejia, Kellogg’s senior vice president, said in the statement.

Simplified and consistent date labeling will help companies halve food waste by 2025, said Peter Freedman, managing director of the Consumer Goods Forum.

Several food and drink makers including Mondelez International MDLZ.O and Unilever ULVR.L are also setting their own standards for ethical sourcing of raw materials, moving away from third-party labels such as Fairtrade.

Reporting by Uday Sampath in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel