With food waste reduction, Japan feels it is ‘near’ to meeting awareness and action targets, according to Govt.

According to new Japanese government data, the country is on the verge of meeting its aim of having 80% of the population simultaneously aware of and taking action against

food waste. In an effort to prevent unspoiled food from going to waste, Japan introduced the local Act on Promotion of Food Loss and Waste Reduction in 2019. Public and private industry campaigns and policies focused on foods such as sushi rolls, as well as expiry date labelling standards. One of the government’s numerous attempts has been to reach the national aim of 80% of the Japanese public being aware of and taking meaningful steps to decrease food waste and loss.

Earlier this year, we conducted the second Consumer Lifestyle and Awareness Survey among 5,000 men and women aged 15 and up in Japan, with questions focused on food

loss and waste, the local Consumer Affairs Agency (CAA) stated in an official statement.

We discovered that 76.7% of participants are actively reducing food waste and loss after tallying the percentage of consumers who responded that they are aware of the issue and are taking steps to reduce it. This is in line with the government’s goal to have 80% of all consumers aware of and taking action to address the food waste issue by 2025.

When questioned exclusively about their awareness of this issue, 25.6% of all respondents claimed to be extremely educated about Japan’s food waste crisis, while 55.2% claimed to have some understanding of it. When age groups were examined, it was discovered that individuals aged 70 and above exhibited the highest levels of awareness, with a total of 90.7% possessing some or a significant amount of knowledge regarding food waste, as highlighted by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in their report.

Consumers in their twenties, on the other hand, had the lowest degree of awareness, with only 69.2% claiming some level of understanding. This shows that more focused educational initiatives in this age range may be required. On the plus side, 83.9% of consumers aged 10 to 20 years are aware of food waste, demonstrating a promising understanding of food waste in this generation.

Improvements in awareness of best-before and expiry dates for food goods appear to be needed since 22.9% of respondents claimed they had little to no comprehension of the changes and their significance. There is also a need in Japan to encourage increased surplus food donations by consumers to prevent food waste, but there still remain concerns especially revolving around food safety, she said.

In the current survey, a notable 36.2% of respondents explicitly expressed their reluctance to donate surplus food, even with the presence of conveniently placed collection boxes at supermarkets and local government facilities. Additionally, concerns related to food safety serve as a significant deterrent for consumers, with 36.1% of respondents perceiving it as ‘unavoidable’ for establishments to restrict takeout services due to the potential risks of incidents like food poisoning. This underscores the impact of both personal preferences and safety apprehensions on the willingness of individuals to engage in initiatives aimed at food donation and return of unfinished restaurant meals.

Best-before dates: As per the Japanese government’s public relations office, the recorded local food loss and waste in Japan reached approximately 5.2 million tons in the year 2020. In response to this issue, the government is actively involved in initiatives aimed at enhancing consumer awareness regarding best-before dates. The focus is on educating the public about when food products remain safe for consumption and when they should be discarded, with the ultimate goal of minimizing waste arising from uncertainties related to product freshness and safety. The agency clarified, the best-before date does not signify that the food becomes inedible after this date; instead, it indicates the period during which the product is expected to be at its best in terms of taste and quality. It is the date until which the anticipated quality of the product is likely to be maintained if stored according to the specified conditions. However, it is crucial to understand that the food does not become unfit for consumption after this designated date.