(Last Updated 02/21/2019)
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. 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.
- Establishes a dual label system reducing the available labeling language to two phrases: one quality date indicator and one safety date indicator.
–The legislation would allow manufacturers to include a date indicating a food product’s quality, as long as the date is indicated by the standard phrase “best if used by.” Because quality is subjective, the use of a quality date would be optional.
–Under the legislation, a safety date, indicated by the standard language “expires on,” would be required on a small group of foods identified by the FDA and USDA as being those that could become less safe after the date.
- 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 “expires on” safety label; 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 S. 2947, the Food Date Labeling Act.
Follow the status of the bill here.