Expiration Date Clarification on Food Labels

Prodcut Expiration Dates

Food labels aim to provide consumers with information about the product they are using. However, sometimes labels can be misleading. Our blog post about all of the terms that can be used to reference expiration dates on packaging discusses the various phrases used to signify the best date ranges for food to be packaged and consumed by. Phrases include “use by,” “expires,” “best if used by,” “sell by,” and “packed on.”

The confusion with date labels has prompted the Food Marketing Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association to encourage grocers and foodmakers to reduce the language used on expiration labels to two terms, “best if used by” and “use by.”

“Best if Used By” and “Use By” Language

According to a recent article in USA Today titled “Use by? Sell by? New food labels aim to make it easier to know,” the proposed changes to food label language by the Food Marketing Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association has the support of large companies such as Walmart, Dean Foods, and Wakefern Food.

According to the groups proposing this change, the term “best if used by” would be used for non-perishable foods. The term “use by” would apply to perishable foods such as meat and dairy products. The difference between the two terms is the “best if used by” label references product quality in comparison to the “use by” label which references product safety.

What Does This Mean for Food Manufacturers?

While this initiative is not mandatory, the organizations are still urging manufacturers to start using these two terms for expiration date language. In addition to educating buyers and providing them with more information about when consumers should get rid of their food products, adding clarification to the language will also help to reduce food waste that results from confusing expiration labels. According to a national survey about consumer perceptions of date labels, “84% of consumers throw out food based on date labels at least occasionally.”

No matter what your label says, it is important to make sure that consumers are able to understand your offerings and are educated about when a product should be disposed of. If you have any questions regarding the best language for your label or the best label applicator to use for your product, please contact our team today!