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Food Labeling Update: Standardized Date Labels Take Effect by 2020

Food LabelingFood Labels: ‘Best if Used by’ and ‘Expiration Date’ Changes

Leading food and beverage companies from across the globe have joined forces in their pledge to standardize date labels on food and beverage products by 2020, in an effort to lessen consumer confusion, and give the industry a more eco-friendly footprint.

Today, food and beverage manufacturers have the option of dating their products with ‘sell by’, ‘use by’, ‘best before’ and ‘display until’ labels to indicate expiration dates, and the broad terminology has proven to be confusing for customers who are throwing away products before they’ve expired.

Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) to Cut Food Waste in Half by 2020

The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) – a network of more than 400 of the largest consumer goods companies in the world, comprised of industry leaders like Campbell Soup, Nestlé, and Kellogg, have approved the labeling update.

CGF is committed to cutting food waste in half by 2020. The organization estimates the average American household throws away roughly $1,500.00 of food still within the use-by date, every year. CGF stated: “Food waste is a major contributor to climate change, emitting 8% of annual greenhouse gases.” The standardized labeling update will lessen consumer waste, in turn lessening the food industry’s impact on global climate change over time.

New Food Labeling Standards: Steps Towards Compliance

The new standards mean food and beverage producers need to take the required steps towards compliance. Moving forward, there will be one expiration date format for perishable items (e.g. ‘use by’) and one food quality indicator for non-perishable items (e.g. ‘best if used by’). Changes to your format, product packaging, and quality procedures should be made now, in advance of the deadline. You can learn more about the food labeling standard by reading the case of federal regulation published by the Food Law & Policy Clinic at Harvard University.

In addition to updating product labels, producers are encouraged to educate consumers about the shelf life and stability of their products on their website and in their marketing materials. Educating consumers about how to properly interpret expiration date information will result in less overall food waste, saving consumers money and helping to make the food manufacturing industry more sustainable.

For more information about the food and beverage labeling updates visit the Food & DrugAdministration’s (FDA) website.