CJ CheilJedang (CJ제일제당) Corporation held a "Wise Diet Campaign" (슬기로운 식생활 캠페인) to celebrate World Food Day with the UN-World Food Program and Goodwill Indusrties on October 16. This campaign was held to introduce the use-by date labeling and reduce the waste from food thrown away due to the deadline of the sell-by date labels. In Korea, the sell-by date labeling is used to indicate the food due date. In this situation, the consumers who recognize it as a date of disposal often throw products or food away, even though it is safe enough to eat food. There are growing calls for the introduction of the Use-by date system like the demand raised during the Wise Diet Campaign.
Differences between Sell-by date and Use-by date
The Sell-by date
This label is aimed at retailers, and it informs them of the date by which the product should be sold or removed from shelf life. However, this dose not mean that the product is unsafe to consume after the date. Typically, one-thrird of a product's shelf-life remains after the Sell-by date for the consumer to use at home
The Use-by date
This label is aimed at consumers as a directive of the date by which the product should be eaten; mostly because of quality, not because the item will necessarily make you sick if eaten after the Use-by date. Although, after the Use-by date, product quality is likely to go down much faster and safety could be lessened.
The Catholic University of the Forum (CUF) conducted a survey toward students on their perception of the Sell-by date and the Use-by date. In the survey, 12 out of 30 of students answered "I do not know" when asked if they knew the difference between the sell-by date and the use-by date. As such, there were some students in our school who did not know the difference between the two dates.
The standard that Korean consumers still trust is the Sell-by date. According to the survey of the CUF, 9 out of 30 students, answered “I do not eat the food that passed the Sell-by date and throw it right away.” Despite of the expiration of the sell-by date, some food is still edible enough, but people throw food away. Pursuant to the Korea Health Industry Promotion Agency statistics, the social cost of food that is discarded or returned after the Sell-by date is estimated at up to 1.54 trillion won a year. Moreover, according to an experiment done by the Korea Consumer Agency, raw noodles that were not oil-fried had no problem until about 50 days after the sell-by date, and raw noodles such as kal-guksu noodles were still available for nine days, frozen dumplings for 25 days, and milk for 50 days.
Korea has introduced the sell-by date system to distribute food safely since 1985. Although the sell-by date system is superior to the use-by date in terms of safety, the question of sell-by date has been raised steadily. Therefore, using the advantages of the two data, the sell-by date, and the use-by date system had been marked together for a while in 2012. Nevertheless, as both dates had marked at the same time, the small sized product lacks space to print that all on and could also be the cost burden by adding facilities according to the parallel marking. In particular, there was not enough space to print dates label for the sauce packaged for one-time use. For these reasons, only the sell-by date has been still in use.
Many other countries besides Korea have been used the use-by date system for a significant amount of time. The E.U, the U.K., Canada, and Australia utilize the use-by date notation, and Codex Alimentarius Commission which is an internationally recognized standard with relation to food safety removed the sell-by date from the food labeling rule from 2018. To prevent further generation of food waste generated by the Sell-by date, the Korean government and the ruling party are about to promote a policy no later than 2023. This policy makes a food companies indicate the Use-by date by which food or products must be used instead of Sell-by date. The revision sets a grace period for two years after the legislation because modifying can change the distribution environment of the entire food industry.
However, it is pointed out that introducing the Use-by date could pose a threat to the customer’s safety. The experts and related industries such as the dairy industries said that there have been no prior measures such as strengthening the legal refrigeration temperature at the level of the advanced countries, establishing a system for refrigeration management and distribution, and educating consumers about proper refrigeration temperature. Even in the current incomplete refrigerated distribution system, the dairy products like milk can go bad if the Use-by date is set longer than the Sell-by date.
In additions, the Korea Dairy and Beef Farmers Association said that until the Use-by date is implemented, the government needs to provide publicity, education to consumers and management of the refrigerated distribution system. Nevertheless, introducing the Use-By date is suitable way to prevent us from wasting food caused by Sell-by date, indeed. According to a survey conducted by the Korea Health Industry Promotion Agency, the period of availability is expected to increase by about 30 percent compared to the previous the Sell-by date. That will also save 300 billion won for customers and 17.6 billion won for manufacturers.
As can be seen from the CUF survey, several CUK students are not aware of the difference between the Sell-by date and the Use-by date. Also, A Park Hyun-jin, a professor at Korea University Department of Food Bioscience and Technology stressed at 2020 Food and Drug Safety Open Forum that most Koreans are unaware of the difference between Sell-by date and Use-by date. In order to improve the fact that food waste is generated due to the inability to distinguish between these two deadlines, public awareness of the Use-by date is needed first. The CUF hopes that many consumers, including CUK students, will be aware of the Use-by date in order to prevent any food waste caused by the Sell-by date.