Food Industry Proposes Simpler, Standardized Product Date Labels
February 17, 2017

In an effort to simplify food purchases and reduce food waste, grocery manufacturers and retailers have launched an industry-wide effort to adopt standard wording on packaging about the quality and safety of products.

The new initiative streamlines the myriad date labels on consumer product packaging down to just two standard phrases.
  • "BEST If Used By" describes product quality, where the product may not taste or perform as expected but is safe to use or consume.
  • "USE By" applies to the few products that are highly perishable and/or have a food safety concern over time; these products should be consumed by the date listed on the package - and disposed of after that date.
Currently, the more than 10 different date labels on packages - such as Sell By, Use By, Expires On, Best Before, Better if Used By or Best By - can result in confused consumers discarding a safe or usable product after the date on the package, according to the Food Marketing Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association.

These two major trade associations for retailers and consumer product manufacturers are leading the voluntary effort. They've encouraged their members to immediately begin phasing in the common wording with widespread adoption urged by the summer of 2018.

Reprinted in part from Agri-Pulse