In an article published on March 27, 2019 by news provider Food Dive, author Maya Sandalow discusses the current approach to date labeling on food packaging and calls for standardization. The article references a recent study from the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health that found that in the U.S. “consumers frequently misunderstand food date labels” and that “education is needed to support the roll-out of voluntary label standards.” 84% of consumers reported discarding food close to the date listed on the packaging at least occasionally, and the researchers identified that “misunderstanding the meaning of food date labels is strongly associated with reports of more frequent food discards.”

In the U.S., the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service explains that “manufacturers provide dating to help consumers and retailers decide when food is of best quality. Except for infant formula, dates are not an indicator of the product’s safety and are not required by Federal law.” Sandalow comments that “the majority of foods are perfectly fine to eat past the dates indicated on the label, and consumers would likely not detect the change in quality for some time. Yet most people interpret these dates as safety warnings.” The current labeling phrases used, she argues, are “insufficient in conveying to customers what date labels truly mean.”

Read more

Maya Sandalow (March 27, 2019). “Standardized date label legislation is a crucial step in addressing food waste.”

USDA (December 14, 2016). “Food Product Dating.”

Aidan Fortune (March 27, 2019). “Shelf-life guidance comes under fire.” Global Meat News


Neff, R. et al. (2019) “Misunderstood food date labels and reported food discards: A survey of U.S. consumer attitudes and behaviors.” Waste Management 86:123-132