FMI, GMA tackle confusing food labels
Two of the most influential groups in the retail and food industries are asking companies to change the "expiration" or "sell by" labels on consumer products.
The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) are launching an effort to adopt standard wording on packaging about the quality and safety of products.
Currently, more than 10 different date labels on packages – such as Sell By, Use By, Expires On, Best Before, Better if Used By or Best By – can result in confused consumers discarding a safe or usable product after the date on the package.
The new voluntary initiative looks to streamline the myriad date labels on consumer products packaging down to just two standard phrases. "BEST If Used By" describes product quality, where the product may not taste or perform as expected but is safe to use or consume. "USE By" applies to the few products that are highly perishable and/or have a food safety concern over time; these products should be consumed by the date listed on the package – and disposed of after that date.
"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," said 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."
Product date labeling changes may also result in reduced consumer food waste. About 44 percent of food waste sent to landfills comes from consumers, and statistics show that addressing consumer confusion around product date labeling could reduce total national food waste by just 8 percent.