Finally Some Clarity Comes To The Label

The Lempert Report
April 03, 2017

FMI and GMA have teamed up to actually help the shopper by urging companies and retailers to pare down the sea of confusing expiration language on products to just use two.

"Best if used by" would be used to communicate quality, where the product is still safe to consume after the date.  "Use by" would be used to communicate that a product is highly perishable and/or has food safety concerns over time. 

Their recommendation is voluntary – only the government could mandate such language and guidelines – but we hope and urge all brands and retailers to follow their recommendation. Studies show that more than 80 percent of Americans misinterpret date labels and throw food away prematurely, under the misconception that it’s necessary to protect their families’ health. 

While FMI and GMA seem to be taking credit for this, it actually stems from the NRDC and the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic’s 2013 report, The Dating Game: How Confusing Labels Land Billions of Pounds of Food in the Trash.   

"Millions of Americans are tossing perfectly good food in the trash because they think it’s not safe to eat after the date on the package." Dana Gunders, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council and author of Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook told New Hope. "This is a critical step toward clearing up the confusion and stopping all of that food, money, water and energy from going to waste." 

It also, I’m sure, was influenced by the new guidance issued by USDA in December, that encourages manufacturers and retailers of meat, dairy and eggs to use one universal “Best if used by” date label on their products.

Better late than never.