The FDA wants food industry to change the wording for expiration dates

The Food and Drug Administration is on a new campaign to curtail food waste in America by urging the food industry to change its labeling of expiration dates on its products so that we don’t throw out our food unless it is really inedible.

A letter was sent out to the food industry at large, on Thursday, May 23, 2019, the FDA voiced its support for certain words to be used for expiration dates on its products.

The FDA at the same time reminded the public that food can still be edible and safe to consume beyond the current wording of the expiration dates.  They just may not be as tasty if they had been used before the printed expiration dates. This move by the FDA is an effort to cut down on the huge food waste problem America.

So much is spent and wasted. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that around $161 billion is wasted annually which comes to approximately 30 percent of the food Americans waste sitting on either store shelves or in their homes.  

A survey done by the FDA revealed that the biggest reason the average American throws out their food is because of confusion over what the expiration date wording really means.

There are no laws mandating that the food industry use expiration dates on their products. It was a decision that was made by the food industry itself. Neither is it necessary for the food production companies to get approval from the FDA on the wording they use or even give an explanation of why they choose the date the food is supposedly to expire.

The food industry has in the past used terms like: sell by, or expires on, or use by. According to the FDA, the expiration date is only to convey the quality or freshness of the product not whether it is safe to eat or not.  The date put on the product really is just a rough guess which means the food will probably still be fresh past the given date.

The food industry itself has tried to clear up the confusion. In 2017, an alliance was formed by the the Grocery Manufacturers Association and Food Marketing Institute to make recommendations on expiration labeling by its members. They recommended that for non perishable foods, the wording ‘Best if Used By’ be used and for perishable foods the words, ‘Use By’ should be used with understanding that only foods with the ‘Use by’ expiration date would be unsafe for consumption. 

In its letter the FDA strongly supports and urges the food industry to follow suit.

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