FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WASHINGTON (February 13, 2024) – Over 24 industry supporters have signed the Zero Food Waste Coalition’s open letter urging Congress to support the bipartisan Food Date Labeling Act of 2023 (H.R.3159, S.1484) (FDLA) and encourage them to include it in the upcoming Farm Bill. The FDLA aims to reduce food waste by establishing a standardized dual date-labeling scheme for food products in the United States that have date labels. Major food industry businesses, including Kroger, Walmart, and Nestlé USA, have signed the letter, which cites that standardizing and streamlining date labels is one of the most cost-effective methods to prevent the wasting of surplus, wholesome food.
“Danone North America is proud to support and join this diverse coalition to advocate for the Food Date Labeling Act. This is a pragmatic approach that can help the food industry work across a common and standard labeling framework that is both clear for consumers and helpful to ensure that more unsold items end up with food banks versus landfills,” said Christopher Adamo, Vice President of Public Affairs & Regenerative Agriculture Policy at Danone.
Approximately 38% of food produced or imported into the United States goes unsold or uneaten each year, and confusion over date labels is a major driver of this waste. With almost 60 different labeling terms currently being used, consumers often prematurely discard past-date food because they mistakenly confuse “quality” date labels with “discard” date labels. Most dates on food are quality dates to indicate the manufacturer’s estimate for optimal freshness and taste of food. Some small number of foods have date labels that are intended to signal the shelf-life of food or an increased risk of food safety after an extended amount of time, after which the labeler advises the food not to be consumed. However, there is currently no federal regulation on food date labeling, except for infant formula. The current patchwork of date label regulations across states lacks consistency, and the resulting consumer confusion accounts for approximately 8% of all U.S. food waste.
The FDLA directly addresses consumer confusion by proposing a labeling scheme where food labelers who choose to include a date label on their food product use one of two options: “BEST If Used By” to indicate optimal freshness and quality and “USE By” to indicate the discard date. Food industry companies welcome the simplified and standardized labeling proposal.
“Standardizing date labels through the Food Date Labeling Act is a pragmatic food waste solution,” said Ben Crook, Senior Vice President/General Manager of North American Condiments at Unilever. “By eliminating the patchwork of state date label laws, the Act helps brands such as Hellmann’s consistently and accurately communicate information about our products to consumers, so they waste less of the food they buy.”
The FDLA has support from actors across the supply chain. Rose Benjamin, Strategic Projects and Waste Programs Manager at Bon Appétit Management Company, said: “Standardizing date labeling has tremendous potential to reduce food waste within the food service sector. It will help to eliminate unnecessary confusion about product spoilage within our kitchens and prevent teams from wasting perfectly good food unnecessarily. The Food Date Labeling Act is one important tool to help our kitchens utilize food to their full potential and help us reach our goal to reduce food loss and waste by 50% by 2030.”
In addition to a dual-labeling scheme, the FDLA would also direct the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to work together to provide education on the meanings of the standardized date labels. A collaboration between USDA and FDA would support the successful implementation of the new date label scheme and clarify the meaning of date labels for individuals, businesses, and even state regulators.
Industry is on board to support the agencies in educating consumers about a new, standardized date-labeling scheme. Chris MacAulay, VP of Operations North America at Too Good to Go said: “Too Good To Go supports calls for standardization of date labels, and through our ‘Look-Smell-Taste’ initiative, we hope the additional use of pictograms can encourage people to trust their senses when assessing if food is still safe to consume past its ‘Best If Used By’ date.”
Food industry members view the FDLA as a commonsense solution that will bring much-needed regulatory consistency on food labeling. The proposed legislation offers a practical approach to addressing consumer confusion on date labels, supporting both national food waste goals, and saving households money.
The Zero Food Waste Coalition, alongside the growing number of food industry companies, call on Congress to make progress on the U.S. goal of halving food waste by 2030 and support the FDLA.
The Zero Food Waste Coalition aims to inform and influence policy at the local, state, and federal levels, and share policy updates and opportunities with partners and stakeholders around the country to bring consumers, businesses, and government together to make food loss and waste history. The Coalition was launched by NRDC, WWF, ReFED, and FLPC in April 2023, formalizing a partnership that began in January 2020.
The Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) serves partner organizations and communities by providing guidance on cutting-edge food system issues, while engaging law students in the practice of food law and policy. FLPC’s work focuses on increasing access to healthy foods, supporting sustainable production and regional food systems, promoting community-led food system change, and reducing waste of healthy, wholesome food. FLPC is committed to advancing a cross-sector, multi-disciplinary and inclusive approach to its work, building partnerships with academic institutions, government agencies, private sector actors, and civil society with expertise in public health, the environment, and the economy. For more information, visit chlpi.org/flpc and follow us on twitter at @HarvardFLPC.
NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world’s natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.
ReFED works to catalyze the food system to take evidence-based action to stop wasting food. As a nonprofit with a 30,000-foot view of the food system, we cultivate and convene the food community, deliver actionable evidence and insights, and seed and accelerate food waste solutions. Our goal is a sustainable, resilient, and inclusive food system that optimizes environmental resources, minimizes climate impacts, and makes the best use of the food we grow. To learn more about solutions to reduce food waste, please visit www.refed.org.
World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is one of the world’s leading conservation organizations, working in nearly 100 countries for over half a century to help people and nature thrive. With the support of more than 5 million members worldwide, WWF is dedicated to delivering science-based solutions to preserve the diversity and abundance of life on Earth, halt the degradation of the environment and combat the climate crisis. Visit http://www.worldwildlife.org to learn more and keep up with the latest conservation news by following @WWFNews on Twitter and signing up for our newsletter and news alerts here.