The FDA Wants To Make Date Labels On Food Labels Easier To Understand

About 1/3 of Americas Food ends up in the trash. Totaling a whopping $161 billion a year in food waste.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently sent a letter to food industry leaders urging them to standardize the phrase “best if used by” on packaged food labels.

“Imagine this: You go to your favorite supermarket and come out with three bags full of groceries,” Frank Yiannas, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for Food Policy and Response, said in a prepared statement. “Before you get in your car, you toss one of those bags in the garbage. Sound ridiculous? Of course it does, but that’s in essence what food waste looks like every day across our country.”

Further complicating the decision of whether a consumer should throw out expired food is the inconsistent language used on date labels, whether it’s “use before,” “sell by” or “expires on.”

This confusion contributes to about 20 percent of household food waste, according to the FDA.

“Best if used by” is the preferred language, since determining a food’s peak freshness isn’t an exact science. However, the idea is that the food can still be eaten after that date, even if it’s a little bit past its prime.

“Reducing food waste is a shared responsibility, and consumers have an especially important role to play,” Yiannas said. “The FDA is committed to providing the information they need to make safe and sound decisions for their family. Food is too important to waste.”