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USDA issues new guidance on food date labeling

“Best if used by” labels could help consumers reduce food waste

Washington, DC, December 19, 2016

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree applauded guidance the USDA released yesterday encouraging manufacturers to use a “Best if used by” date label. 

“It’s estimated that 30 percent of the food consumers purchase gets thrown out.  Much of that waste has to do with confusion over the meaning of a barrage of inconsistent date labels—‘Best by,’ ‘Sell by,’ and ‘Use by’ among them. The USDA’s new guidance is welcome progress toward reducing consumer confusion by encouraging manufacturers to adopt a consistent standard,” said Pingree. “The next step is to formalize date labeling phrasing in legislation, to establish a uniform system, and make sure states do not restrict the donation of food that has passed its date. I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to advance legislation that reduces both food waste and consumer confusion around date labels.”

Earlier this year, Pingree introduced the Food Date Labeling Act.  The bill establishes a uniform national system for date labeling 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 decisions. 

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