Federal bill would standardize food date labeling, reduce waste
A new bill introduced in the US Senate and House Wednesday aims to improve the current expiration date system by developing a food date labeling standard that would reduce consumer confusion and help eliminate a key cause of food waste.
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, roughly 40 percent of food in America goes uneaten. This can be attributed in part to confusing date labels such as such as “sell by,” “use by,” and “expires on” which consumers often misinterpreted as an indicator that food could make them sick and must be tossed.
The bills, sponsored by US Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-ME) today, would establish standard federal rules for the dates on food labels and simplify regulatory compliance for companies.
“Before taking a swig of milk, many Americans glance quickly at the date label and toss it away, without realizing that it still may be perfectly safe to consume,” Blumenthal says. “Items at the grocery store are stamped with a jumble of arbitrary food date labels that are not based on safety or science. This dizzying patchwork confuses consumers, results in food waste, and prevents good food from being donated to those who need it most.
The bill proposes a uniform labeling system that clearly distinguishes between foods that bear a label indicating peak quality from foods that bear a label indicating they may become unsafe to consume past the date. This bill would also ensure that food is allowed to be sold or donated after its quality date, and educate consumers about the meaning of new labels so that they can make better economic and safety decision.