Legislating Date Labels

America’s date label status quo has expired.

Lack of a national standard on date labels combined with a jumble of state laws on the subject causes a jumble of confusing terms. A recent Harvard/Hopkins survey (PDF) documented the extent of that confusion. In that haze, we often throw out perfectly good food. That confusion causes at least 8 million pounds of food wasted annually (according to ReFED), which means squandered money, natural resources and nourishing food.

To remedy this situation, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) yesterday introduced the Food Date Labeling Act. The bill aims to create a uniform national date labeling system to simplify terms to either “best if used by” or “expires on.” The bill would also allow for the sale or donation of foods after the quality date (currently prohibited in 20 states).

Rep. Pingree introduced general food waste bill in 2015, but this marks the first national bill on this particular facet of the food waste issue. Remember, the only food item required by federal law to have a date label is infant formula. Let’s hope this bill is brought to a vote in both the House and Senate and passes. It sure is needed.

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