(Last Updated 01/15/2020)
Food Date Labeling Act
In May 2016, Senator Richard Blumenthal and Representative Chellie Pingree introduced companion bills in the Senate and the House to standardize food date labels across the United States. In July 2019, Representative Pingree and Representative Dan Newhouse Introduced the Food Date Labeling Act of 2019 (H.R. 3981), which builds on the 2016 bills and proposes establishing standardized quality and discard dates. With the exception of infant formula, there are no uniform federal standards for date labels. In the absence of federal law, states have enacted a dizzying variety of date label laws. As a result, the vast majority of consumers are unable to identify what date labels mean, which causes them to throw away perfectly good food. Some states even ban or restrict past-date food sales, causing additional food waste. But these dates are generally not intended to communicate safety information; instead, they signal a manufacturer’s estimate of how long food will taste its best. Unfortunately, consumers mistakenly believe that these dates are indicators of safety, and many report throwing away food once the date passes due to fear of safety risks.
The Food Date Labelling Act of 2019:
- Establishes a dual label system reducing the available labeling language to two phrases: one quality date indicator and one safety date indicator.
–If a manufacturer chooses to use a date to indicate a food product’s quality, it must use the phrase "best if used by."
–If a manufacturer chooses to use a date to indicate when a food should be discarded for safety reasons, it must use the standard language "Use by."
- Eliminates state laws that bar the sale or donation of food past the quality date. However, states would still be allowed to prohibit the past-date sale or donation of foods bearing the “Use by” discard date; and
- Provides for educating consumers about the meaning of new labels so that they can make better economic and safety decisions.
Read the full text of H.R. 3981 here.
Follow the status of the bill here.