WASHINGTON – A bill introduced in the US Senate and House on May 18 would make expiration date labeling on food less confusing, helping to eliminate a key cause of consumer food waste, proponents of the legislation said. 

The Food Date Labeling Act requires the use of food date label terminology (i.e. “best if used by”) that has gone through consumer perception surveys and has been identified as language that is the most clear and accurate to consumers. The bill was introduced by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine).

“One of the most common arguments people seem to have at home is about whether or not food should be thrown out just because the date on the label has passed,” Pingree said in a statement. “It’s time to settle that argument, end the confusion and stop throwing away perfectly good food.”

The legislation comes after a national public service campaign from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Ad Council called “Save The Food” that is designed to combat consumer food waste. Watch the PSA below. 


“Contrary to popular belief, expiration date labels often don’t indicate whether food is still safe to eat, Dana Gunders, NRDC senior scientist, said in a statement. “As a result, we are tossing massive amounts of perfectly good food in the trash along with all of the water, climate pollution, and money it took to get it to our fridge.


“This bill will help clarify the true meaning of the dates on food labels, giving consumers a better sense of food's freshness, so we can keep more on our plates and out of the landfill,” she added


Nestlé joined lawmakers, food company representatives, food bank officials, environmental advocates and academics in applauding the legislation.


“We fully support establishing federal standards to help food companies like Nestlé more clearly communicate with consumers and avoid confusion that leads to unnecessary food waste,” Paul Grimwood, chairman and CEO of Nestlé USA, said in a statement. “Nestlé has already committed to achieve zero waste to landfill in 100 percent of our production facilities by 2020, and we're well on our way to achieving that goal. Standardizing date labeling is a practical and commonsense approach to giving consumers the information they need to help extend this effort all the way to their own kitchens.”


Forty percent of food in America goes uneaten, according to the NRDC, and consumers are responsible for more of that waste than grocery stores, restaurants or any other part of the supply chain. Confusing date labels are a major contributor to consumer waste, often misinterpreted as an indicator that food could make them sick and must be tossed.


There are no federal rules that set typical ways to date food labels, except for infant formula. State and local rules vary and in most instances, industry practice are to print dates based on the manufacturers’ suggestions for when food is likely to be at its freshest quality.


Studies show that up to 90 percent of Americans are misinterpreting date labels and throwing food away early.


Last fall, the Obama administration set a target for reducing US food waste 50 percent nationwide by 2030. The United Nations issued a similar goal days later.


The NRDC also said that the US is throwing away $162 billion worth of food each year. That’s a problem that’s costing the average American family of four roughly $1,500 every year.