We came across the following web post being shared in a Singapore-based Telegram channel:
The post states that the World Economic Forum (WEF) has convinced the UK to remove ‘best before’ dates from food products in an effort to conserve food waste. It goes on to claim that that the organisation’s true intention is to hide the extent of food shortages caused by their ‘zero-emissions’ pipe dream.
Calling WEF chairman Klaus Schwab a ‘rotten man’, the article makes the accusation that the WEF ‘would like us to eat bugs and expired foods’ while the elite eat well and live in luxury, encouraged by the government.
Don’t Judge a Fruit by Its Label
Given the current cost-of-living crisis and inflation in food prices that have hit Europe especially hard, such claims are likely to inflame those feeling the pinch.
Investigating these claims, we found that the post was referring to this article on the WEF site which described efforts by supermarket chains to remove ‘best before’ dates on their food packaging in an effort to reduce food waste.
Digging a little deeper, we found that several major UK supermarket chains had committed to removing ‘best before’ labels to reduce food waste. These included Asda and Sainsbury’s, which had made the changes recently, while other chains like Waitrose, Co-op, Marks & Spencer and Tesco had made changes earlier – Tesco had introduced its changes as early as 2018.
These changes do appear to have been driven by a desire to reduce food waste. One estimate by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), a UK-based charity focusing on sustainability and reducing wastage, found that 9.5 million tonnes of food were wasted in the UK in 2018, with 70% of that being incurred by households.
These changes appear to have been brought about by coordination between WRAP, private sector organisations, the UK government and local authorities. With the food waste valued at 19 billion pounds and associated with 20 million tonnes of greenhouse gases each year, agreements to reduce wastage have been around since at least 2016. It does not appear, however, that WEF has played any direct role in encouraging these changes, though it appears to endorse the efforts and has its own food waste reduction initiative.
The original post states ‘the WEF insists that [“best before” and “use by”] dates are meaningless as it still may be safe to eat expired food’. The post cites the example of milk, which they note is extremely dangerous to drink if expired.
While it is true that spoiled milk is dangerous to drink, it is not true that the food wastage initiatives by the supermarkets are encouraging the consumption of spoiled milk. The supermarket chain Morrisons, which has switched from ‘use by’ labels to ‘best before’ labels on its milk items, says it has made the change as “well-kept milk has a good few days life after normal ‘use by’ dates”’. It is therefore switching to ‘best before’ labels and encouraging people to use their judgement, such as by administering the ‘sniff test’, to determine if the milk remains good to drink.
The European Food Information Council (EUFIC) estimates that up to 10% of the 88 million tonnes of Food Waste in the EU are linked to date labelling, such as due to poor legibility or misinterpretation of the meaning of the ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ dates.
While these changes by the supermarkets do appear to be an effort to encourage consumers to use their judgement rather than relying on date labels, there is no indication that people are being encouraged to eat expired food. The emphasis appears to be on reducing food waste, and acknowledging that date labels often lead to food being discarded when they are still safe to be consumed.
Moreover, there is no suggestion that the WEF has directed the changes in the UK supermarkets. The claims in the original post appear to derive from general grievances against the wealthy globalist ‘elite’, a common punching bag for conspiracy theorists.
As such, it is false that the WEF is encouraging the consumption of expired food.