An End to Food Date Label Confusion


Congress has an opportunity to help tackle America’s food waste problem through the bipartisan Food Dating Act. Approximately 10% of food wasted in the United States is due to confusion over how to interpret date labels on food, often misinterpreted as “best by date*.” There are many types of date labels that confuse consumers who often believe their food will make them sick when the manufacturer is trying to convey the guarantee of maximum freshness.

When good food is thrown away prematurely or left to rot in the back of the refrigerator, America is wasting resources to produce that food. 80 million acres of farmland, 20% freshwater use, and vast amounts of fuel, fertilizers, and pesticides. Our food produces global warming emissions at every stage of its lifecycle, from the production of synthetic fertilizers to rotting in landfills, many of which are avoidable. However, preventing food waste is within our control.

With the exception of infant formula, date labels on foods are not federally regulated, leaving a patchwork of opaque business practices that differ from state law, confusing consumers and further complicating business. The date notation uses a separate phrase to indicate whether the date is merely an indication of the highest quality (“BEST if used by”) or another consistent phrase (“USE by”) if the risk is high. , requesting standardized date labeling. of food-borne illness past a certain date.

The Food Date Labeling Act’s date labels reflect federal agency guidance on maintaining the safety of the food supply while communicating clear information to consumers. Additionally, the improvements outlined in the bill build on the two-phrase system that the consumer goods industry group adopted in his 2017 and committed to being fully compliant by 2020. , conducted a survey and identified 32,000 products using streamlined language to promote that standardized labels fit into the sustainability culture of the industry. When inventorying refrigerators (as my colleagues and I recently did), we still find many different phrases with unknown meanings, such as food dates that have no phrases at all.

It is particularly timely to resolve the date labeling problem for American foods. With food prices skyrocketing, preventing food waste means even more savings. Full implementation of the Food Labeling Act would generate a net economic benefit of $3.6 billion annually, most of which would stay in the pockets of American households. Additionally, savings can be seen in food banks, grocery stores, and other food businesses. Many food companies and manufacturers produce and sell the same product across multiple states. This means that you often have to navigate compliance with several different regulations for a single product.

For example, eggs sold in California should have a “sell by” date, while eggs in Arizona should have an “expire by” date. Some brands that sell across state lines use the same date he’s with two different phrases. In other words, a consumer buys a carton of eggs that says it should be sold by a specified date and that the ‘best by’ date is ‘best before’. Due to confusion over how dates are interpreted, too many people throw away food for fear of getting sick. The Food Date Labeling Act provides a federal fix for this problem.



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