A clutch of food companies and supermarkets have joined forces to tackle food waste in the Netherlands by clarifying expiry dates on certain products.

The Date-Labelling Coalition includes companies such as manufacturers Unilever, FrieslandCampina and Enrico Foods, plus retailers Albert Heijn, Lidl, Jumbo and Dirk.

It was formed by the Samen Tegen Voedings Waste foundation, Food Waste Free United (FNLI) and Too Good To Go, and endorsed by Dutch supermarket trade association CBL and the Netherlands Nutrition Centre.

Roughly two billion kilograms of “good food” is wasted each year in the Netherlands, and between 24% and 38% of that is wasted by the consumer, according to a statement from the Samen Tegen Voedselverspilling.

Approximately 10% of food waste is caused by “uncertainty” over the expiration dates on products in consumers’ homes.

“After years of reducing food waste by consumers, this downward trend appears to be stagnating,” said Toine Timmermans, director of FNLI.

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“This coalition is an important and logical step in the right direction. We hope that even more companies will join this so that consumers do not have to unnecessarily waste valuable food at home.”

The coalition aims to educate consumers about the difference between best-before (THT) and use-by (TGT) dates and how to manage them effectively.

The companies also want to encourage consumers to decide for themselves whether a food product is safe for consumption through looking, smelling and tasting, claiming that the best-before date is a guideline, rather than a strict expiration date.

Debora van der Zee-Denekamp, general manager of nutrition for north Europe at Unilever, said: “Food is for eating. We want people to enjoy our products and not waste them unnecessarily. Many of our products are also good after the best-before date.

“We want to make it clear to consumers that they can use our products safely and can easily judge for themselves after the best-before date whether they still taste good by looking, smelling and tasting.”

Coalition members also will introduce icons, including a ‘look-smell-taste icon’ for best-before products and a ‘hand’ icon for use-by products.