This article was originally published by The Ripon Advance on December 9, 2021.
Food date labeling changes would be enacted to help reduce food waste under a bipartisan, bicameral bill introduced on Dec. 7 by U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA).
The Food Date Labeling Act of 2021, H.R. 6167, which Rep. Newhouse cosponsored with bill sponsor U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME), aims to reduce food waste by standardizing date labels on food products, according to a bill summary provided by the lawmakers. The identical bill, S. 3324, was sponsored by U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) in the Senate.
“To allow confusing food labeling practices to contribute to unnecessary food waste is absurd, especially when there are tens of millions of Americans experiencing food insecurity,” said Rep. Newhouse, co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Food Recovery Caucus. “This is a commonsense solution to a pervasive problem,” he said, which would modernize labeling practices, reduce food waste, and save individuals money.
Currently, no federal regulations related to date labels on food products exist, except for infant formula, so states decide date labeling regulations, leaving consumers with a patchwork of terms, including “sell by,” “use by,” “freshest on,” and “expires on.”
If enacted, the Food Date Labeling Act would establish an easy food date labeling system: “BEST If Used By” would communicate to consumers that the quality of the food product may begin to deteriorate after the date; “USE By” would communicate the end of the estimated period of shelf life, after which the product should not be consumed, according to the summary.
Additionally, the bill would allow food manufacturers to decide which food products carry a quality date or a discard date and would permit food to be sold or donated after its labeled quality date so that more food reaches those who need it, the summary says.
“Clarifying and standardizing date label language is one of the most cost-effective and commonsense methods to reduce the 40 percent of food that goes to waste each year in the United States,” said Emily Broad Leib at the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic. “Action at the federal level will help ensure that businesses and consumers alike can use and understand date labels more effectively, standardizing these labels across food products and around the country in order to reduce food that ends up in landfills and encourage more donation of safe surplus food.”
The Natural Resources Defense Council, Unilever North America, and the World Wildlife Fund also support the proposed legislation.