The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) have teamed up to develop clearer messaging aimed at helping consumers better understand food expiration dates, thus reducing food waste.

Currently, perishable food packages are marked with at least 10 confusing date labels, including:

  • Best by/best before/best if used by
  • Expires on
  • Sell by
  • Use by

These inconsistent labels--which have different meanings--cause consumers to prematurely throw out food that is still safe to use and consume. The joint effort between FMI and GMA is meant to reduce the number of confusing labels down to just two:

  • Best if used by: indicates the date by which a product’s taste or quality may begin to decline, but it is still safe to consume
  • Use by: a highly perishable food product and the date represents a specific food safety timeframe after which the product should be discarded

"The shopper remains the most critical audience in our industry, and as the associations representing major food brands and retailers, we want to encourage a consistent vocabulary so that our customers clearly understand they are purchasing products that are of the highest quality and safety possible," says Leslie G. Sarasin, FMI president and CEO. "While we all need nourishment, both retailers and manufacturers also want consumers to have the best experience possible in their stores and consuming their products."

FMI and GMA are encouraging food manufacturers and retailers to adopt use of these date labels by summer 2018. Embracing this uniform method of date labeling, while helpful, is completely voluntary.

According to the United Nations Environment Program, 30-40% of the U.S. food supply is wasted, equaling more than 20 pounds of food per person per month.

More on food waste:
FSIS: "Best if Used By" Dates to Curb Food Waste, Save Money
Safely Feeding America
Date Marking: Food Waste Concern Heightens Issue

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