A bipartisan, bicameral bill has been reintroduced in Congress to standardize and clarify food date labels to prevent food from being wasted. The Food Date Labeling Act was reintroduced by Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-ME; Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-WA; and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-CT. Rep. Pingree first introduced a version of the food date labeling bill, along with the more comprehensive Food Recovery Act, in the 113th Congress.

The 2023 bill aims to standardize and limit the date labeling phrasing on product packaging to help consumers differentiate between safety and quality issues and reduce food waste. “Sell by,” “use by,” “freshest on,” and “expires on” are a few of the date labeling phrases being used on food product packaging currently.

With the exception of infant formula, date labeling on food is not federally regulated or standardized. The Food Date Labeling Act would provide clarity on food safety and quality issues while preventing the wastage of more than 500,000 tons of food each year, according to the bill's sponsors. 

Food date labels contribute to food waste by creating consumer confusion between quality and safety issues, prompting them to throw out food that is still safe to eat. A 2016 study from Harvard found that over 80 percent of consumers throw out food that is at or near the date label at least some of the time. 

"Our current food labeling practices are outdated, confusing, and completely arbitrary, resulting in around 90 percent of Americans prematurely throwing out perfectly safe food. This staggering waste takes a toll on families' wallets, on the environment, and on the economy," said Rep. Pingree, Co-Chair of the Bipartisan Food Recovery Caucus. 

"By standardizing the food date labeling system and making labels less confusing for consumers, the bipartisan Food Date Labeling Act will help ensure food is being used and eaten, rather than being thrown out."