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Expiry Dates, Consumer Behavior, and Food Waste: How Would Italian Consumers React If There Were No Longer “Best Before” Labels?

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  • Luca Secondi

    () (Department for Innovation in Biological, Agro-Food and Forest Systems (DIBAF), University of Tuscia, Via S. Camillo De Lellis, SNC 01100 Viterbo, Italy)

Abstract

Much research has been carried out on food losses and waste in the various stages of the food supply chain, consolidating the “fight” against food waste as one of the most important challenges in industrialized countries. Numerous different studies have focused on food waste at the household level, identifying both the multiple causes linked to this behavior and the factors that can drive towards the reduction of food waste. In this paper, a different approach was used, trying to analyze different individuals’ reactions to a concrete action consisting of removing “best before” labels from some food products, following the recent proposal by European Union to simplify date marking. How could any action in this area be implemented in every single country? Bearing in mind the general results of the cross-sectional official survey Flash Eurobarometer n. 425, the purpose of this study was to go deeper into the study of how consumers would behave if the expiry date were no longer available on a pack of spaghetti. The heterogeneity observed in the possible alternative reactions across European Union 28 countries, as well as by considering the importance played by the local context in which individuals reside led us to focus on a single country, and specifically on the Italian context, as an example of country in which citizens have a higher average level of knowledge about expiration dates than the global EU28 citizens, but where, at the same time, there is a more conservative behavior regarding using a product with no expiry date. The multinomial regression model—estimated using the generalized maximum entropy estimator—enabled us to identify different profiles and groups of individuals with which—as a suggestion to policy makers—it would be first necessary to intervene in order to standardize the level of knowledge on this specific topic. In this direction, territorial macro-areas proved to be strongly associated with the various reactions; the probability of consuming or throwing away was found to significantly differ across all the studied regional macro-areas, with a higher likelihood of throwing away the product with no best-before date in southern regions.

Suggested Citation

  • Luca Secondi, 2019. "Expiry Dates, Consumer Behavior, and Food Waste: How Would Italian Consumers React If There Were No Longer “Best Before” Labels?," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 11(23), pages 1-15, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:11:y:2019:i:23:p:6821-:d:292868
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Paul Corral & Mungo Terbish, 2015. "Generalized maximum entropy estimation of discrete choice models," Stata Journal, StataCorp LP, vol. 15(2), pages 512-522, June.
    2. Jessica Aschemann-Witzel & Ilona De Hooge & Pegah Amani & Tino Bech-Larsen & Marije Oostindjer, 2015. "Consumer-Related Food Waste: Causes and Potential for Action," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 7(6), pages 1-21, May.
    3. Wilson, Norbert L.W. & Miao, Ruiqing & Weis, Carter S., 2019. "When in Doubt, Throw It Out! The Complicated Decision to Consume (or Waste) Food by Date Labels," Choices: The Magazine of Food, Farm, and Resource Issues, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 34(1), February.
    4. Golan, Amos, 2008. "Information and Entropy Econometrics — A Review and Synthesis," Foundations and Trends(R) in Econometrics, now publishers, vol. 2(1–2), pages 1-145, February.
    5. Secondi, Luca & Principato, Ludovica & Laureti, Tiziana, 2015. "Household food waste behaviour in EU-27 countries: A multilevel analysis," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 56(C), pages 25-40.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    food waste; consumer behavior; expiration label; Italy; entropy; multinomial logistic regression;

    JEL classification:

    • Q - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics
    • Q0 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General
    • Q2 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q3 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q5 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products

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