Food Industry Finally Agrees To Make 'Use By' Labels Less Confusing

A small victory in the fight against food waste.

Studies have shown that 90 percent of consumers are confused by date labeling, resulting in an excess of food waste. Considering the fact that the U.S. throws out $162 billion of food each year, this is a problem in serious need of addressing.

The food industry has heard that need and as a result, two major food industry associations just put out new guidelines to help make date labeling on foods less confusing.

There are currently 10 different food labels found on packages today in the United States, which understandably can feel a little cryptic to consumers. To ease that confusion the Food Marketing Institute and Grocery Manufacturers Association are suggesting new guidelines for food producers that will streamline all food labels to just two dates.

They’re recommending a “Best if used by,” which would communicate quality, not safety. (That means you can still safely eat the item after it’s past the date, it just might not taste as good or perform as expected.) And there’s also a “Use by” date, which would communicate that a product is highly perishable and may have a food safety issue over time.

Since these guidelines are voluntary, don’t expect to see a massive change at your supermarket any time soon.

These actions come on the heels of the new USDA guidelines that encourage meat, dairy and egg producers to use one universal “Best if Used By” date. Things are starting to look a little clearer.