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FDA Hopes To Reduce Food Waste With ‘Best If Used By' In Expiration Labels

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About 30 percent of food in the United States goes to waste. This is about $161 billion worth of food per year.

Of this waste, about 20 percent is blamed on consumers' confusion over expiration dates printed on the packaging.

Date Labels On Food Packaging

Date labels are not required on packaged foods. The FDA says there is no precise science for a sell-by-date, but food manufacturers currently use a range of terms such as "use before," "sell by," "expires on."

Now, the agency is taking action to address confusions on date labels on food products in an effort to ensure consumers do not throw out food until these are absolutely no longer inedible.

'Best If Used By' Phrase In Food Date Labels

On May 23, FDA issued a letter to the food industry to propose switching to "best if used by" phrase in date labels.

The agency is not mandating the use of the phrase. It was simply supporting an industry shift toward an alternative phrasing for clarity.

"We expect that over time, the number of various date labels will be reduced as industry aligns on this 'Best if Used By' terminology," said Frank Yiannas, FDA's Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response. "This change is already being adopted by many food producers."

More Autonomy For Consumers

The phrase indicates that consumption of the food within a recommended period is an issue of quality and not safety. It also conveys the idea that the products do not have to be thrown away after the indicated date as long as they are stored properly.

Use of the phrase will likewise give consumers more autonomy when it comes to deciding when food has gone bad.

The agency reminded the public that most food products can still be safely eaten regardless if they are past the marked date. These food products, however, may no longer be as tasty as when eaten before the recommended consumption date.

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