In late July, a bipartisan group of legislators introduced a new bill that aims to standardize expiration dates for food and beverage products. The Food Date Labeling Act of 2019 seeks to provide consumers with greater transparency about perishable food items by offering more concrete guidance on the use of "sell by" dates. Currently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration only requires expiration dates to be included on infant formulas. This regulatory gray zone has allowed food and beverage manufacturers to use their own discretion, with most adopting one of many overlapping (and often confusing) terms, including "use by," "best by," "expires on" and more.
Legislators Propose "Best If Used By" Date Labeling
While the new piece of legislation does not make it mandatory for food manufacturers to include expiration dates, it would compel companies to use the uniform phrase "best if used by" for all products bearing the quality disclaimer. One of the main drivers of this change is the high level of food waste in the U.S., which many government officials believe is directly related to confusing date labeling practices.
"It has been estimated that confusion over the multitude of different date labeling terms on food products accounts for about 20% of food waste in the home," said Nathan Arnold, press officer for the FDA, in a statement to USA Today.
According to research from the Natural Resources Defense Council, close to 80% of Americans throw away food prematurely due to confusion over expiration dates. This has only compounded the food waste problem, which is estimated to cost more than $200 billion each year. But this doesn't only impact the end consumer, it also has severe repercussions for the agricultural industry. The environmental impact of large-scale farming operations has continued to grow more severe as the demand for meat, dairy, fruits and vegetables has expanded. By creating standardized terminology for food label expiration dates, FDA officials hope to promote more sustainable growing practices.
Keeping Pace With Labeling Regulations
Labeling regulations are constantly shifting thanks to rising public interest in food transparency. This uncertainty has made it difficult for food and beverage manufacturers to stay proactive about their labeling practices, which is why reliable label printing infrastructure is essential. Without the right tools in place, food companies may be unable to quickly react to future FDA updates and meet their customers' high expectations. To learn more, view our high-quality label printers at Argon Technology's U.S. store or Canada page.