'Look, Smell, Taste' Campaign Urges People to Use Senses Before Tossing Food

Date labels are confusing for most shoppers and drive unnecessary food waste.

laughing cow cheese
A label on The Laughing Cow urges people to avoid food waste.

Too Good To Go

Yay for common sense! We're all for it here at Treehugger, especially when using it leads to less food waste. A new campaign by Too Good To Go, the app that connects hungry shoppers with surplus restaurant meals, is now urging people to start using more of their common sense – and physical senses – when it comes to assessing whether or not a food should be thrown out at home.

"Look, Smell, Taste, Don't Waste" launched January 26 in the United Kingdom. It hopes to clear up the ongoing confusion between "Use By" and "Best Before" dates, which 45% of Britons say they don't understand clearly and is causing approximately 10% of weekly groceries to be discarded. This may not seem like much, but it adds up to a significant £346-worth ($473) of perfectly edible food going into every household's trash each year.

A survey conducted by Too Good To Go in advance of the campaign found that over a quarter of Britons are worried that eating food past its "Best Before" date could make them sick. From a press release:

"Of the 2,000 Brits surveyed, a staggering 39% admitted that they don’t use their senses to determine the edibility of food items in their cupboard or fridge, and almost a third (32%) wouldn’t eat a yoghurt that had passed its ‘Best Before’ date, despite it being perfectly safe to do so. Milk is the food product that Brits are most likely to check before consuming at 70%, with other dairy products such as yoghurt (59%), eggs (56%), and cheese (44%) high up on the list."

Too Good To Go wants people to understand that much of this waste doesn't need to happen and that it's easy to clear up the confusion.

  • "Use By" dates indicate when a food is safe to eat, meaning you shouldn't eat it past a date that could lead to growth of potentially dangerous bacteria.
  • "Best Before" is simply a guide to quality, which will diminish past the date, but there's nothing inherently wrong with it. That is where using your senses comes in handy. Look at it, sniff it, taste a little bit, and if everything seems fine, eat it.

"Date label confusion is a major contributor to food waste at home," said Jamie Crummie, Too Good To Go's co-founder. "The truth is that the dates given on 'Best Before' labels are often extremely conservative and that food can have a much longer life than is specified, with no significant drop in quality. The best way to tell if a food is good to eat is to look at it, smell it, taste it and to trust your own judgment."

In order to spread the message further afield, Too Good To Go has teamed up with 25+ major food brands (many of them dairy-focused) and asked them to add a small information box to their packaging labels that remind shoppers to use their senses before discarding food. The companies have also pledged to change "Use By" labels to "Best Before" on products with flexible consumption dates, and to remove "Best Before" labels on products that don't require them, such as salt. 

juice bottle with anti-food waste label
A bottle of juice reminds shoppers to "look, smell, taste" before wasting.

Too Good To Go

David Moon, head of Business Collaboration at WRAP, the government's food waste advisory board, said in a press release:

"Helping people understand date labels to make the most of their food is a really important way to avoid food going to waste. Food with a 'Best Before' date can be good to eat for days, weeks, or even months beyond the date on pack, depending on the food type and how it’s been stored ... We support Too Good To Go’s call for people to use their senses in deciding when to eat food labelled with a Best Before date. It’s important to remember that a 'Use By' date is a safety marker and there to protect us. Food with a 'Use By' date should never be eaten after that date, so we should try to use or freeze these items before they expire."

As a home cook, I can't say I ever look at "Best Before" or "Use By" dates. In fact, it doesn't occur to me to inspect a label for a date, unless I'm suspicious that it's gone bad faster than I anticipated. If an ingredient doesn't pass my visual, sniff, taste, or feel test (I pay attention to texture as well), or cannot be salvaged, then it goes into the compost bin or trash. Generally, though, I'm able to find some way of using it, such as using sour milk in baked goods, putting limp vegetables into a soup, freezing for future use, or picking slimy leaves out of a bag of spinach or salad greens, rather than tossing the whole thing (a tedious job well-suited to children!). 

Danone yogurt label
A new label on Danone yogurt.

Too Good To Go

Too Good To Go's campaign will raise much-needed awareness of the issue of food waste, especially as shoppers notice the new labels on food and companies are spurred to rethink how quickly they slap "Best Before" dates on everything they make. Now if only we could get a similar campaign on this side of the Atlantic.