GMA and FMI announce standard wording for dates on packages

Dive Brief:

  • An industrywide effort to decrease consumer confusion about product date labels — led by the Food Marketing Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association — is materializing, according to a GMA release.
  • Grocery manufacturers and retailers are partnering to adopt standard wording on packaging about both the quality and safety of products. The initiative is voluntary. 
  • For putting dates on packages, the two groups want manufacturers and producers to use “BEST If Used By,” which would cover product quality, and when the product may not taste or perform as expected but is safe to use or consume. For highly perishable products or those with food safety concerns, the industry groups recommend “USE By.” Products should be consumed by the date listed on the package and disposed of after that date.

Dive Insight:

With 10 different date labels currently being utilized on packages (including such arguably interchangeable terms as Sell By, Use By, Expires On, Best Before, Better if Used By or Best By) it’s no wonder that consumers are frustrated and throwing away food before they really need to.

Dana Gunders, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council and author of the “Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook,” said nearly 90% of Americans are misinterpreting date labels and discarding food away prematurely, accounting for nearly $162 billion worth of food wasted each year.

Studies show that nearly 44% of food waste in landfills is the result of consumers. Some statistics claim that dealing with consumer confusion around product date labeling could decrease total national food waste by 8%. That’s a start.

The GMA and FMI believe that adapting standard wording for dates on packages will make a huge difference. A proposed bill making its way around Congress before Donald Trump took office agreed. The Food Date Labeling Act of 2016 sought to have all food items contain either of two labels; one that indicated when food is at its highest quality and another that shows when the food is no longer safe to eat. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service recommends a "Best If Used By" label, but it can only give guidance and not make a requirement.

Follow on Twitter

Filed Under: Manufacturing Grocery Packaging / Labeling Policy Sustainability
Top image credit: Mark Turnauckas