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Zero Food Waste Coalition

5- Standardize National Date Labeling

Date label confusion is one of the leading causes of consumer food waste, estimated to drive nearly 85% of Americans to prematurely toss food that is still safe to eat. Lack of consistency in labels contributes to additional waste among grocery stores and other consumer-facing businesses and unnecessarily restricts the safe donation of nutritious foods past their date labels to food rescue organizations. Recent voluntary initiatives in the US have coalesced around the standard labels “BEST if Used By” for food’s peak quality and “USE By” for food safety. This standardization only works, however, if there is full adoption across the industry and education of consumers on how to interpret these labels. Without standardization at the federal level, current laws in more than half of our states restrict the ability for businesses to use these two standard labels and limit capacity for streamlined public education.

Policy Recommendations

  • Pass the Food Date Labeling Act


    The bipartisan Food Date Labeling Act, introduced in the 116th Congress by Representatives Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and Dan Newhouse (R-Washington) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), requires FDA and USDA to ensure that businesses that choose to place a date label on their products use one of two standard phrases to indicate either the quality (“BEST If Used By”) or safety (“USE By”) of food products depending on the type. The bill would clarify that food can be safely donated past the “BEST If Used By” date. The bill also critically requires FDA and USDA to educate consumers about the meaning of these date-label terms. Effective implementation of consumer education is essential for date label reform to  result in meaningful change in consumer behavior.