Consumer Behaviour on Food Consumption and Treatment of Expiration Date Labels: A Case Study in Malaysia
This study reports how Malaysian consumers treat and consume edible food that has passed the labelled date. Food date labelling, such as "Best Before", "Use Before", "Expired Before", and "Consume Before", aimed at protecting consumers, also led to edible food waste. Malaysians reportedly discarded 15,000 tons of food, with 60 per cent of the food still edible. International studies identified consumers’ confusion and misinterpretation of the meaning of the food date labels as one of the causes of edible food waste. Different formats and terminologies used as date labels have caused consumers confusion. Despite the prevalence of edible food waste, there has yet to be a study on how Malaysian consumers treat and consume edible food that has passed the labelled date. This study fills in the gaps by conducting a survey involving 460 Malaysian household members. The respondents were asked how they treated and whether they consumed the food that had passed the labelled date. The survey finds a significant link between consumers' treatment and consumption of edible food based on their interpretation of the meaning of the labelled date. This study recommends simplifying and standardising terminologies used in food date labels, adopting smart labelling as part of dual method food date labelling, tax incentives to stimulate the adoption of smart date labels by the food industry and embracing secondary life-shelf practice to extend the shelf life of food. This study supports the UN Sustainable Development Goals on responsible consumption and production of food.