USDA Revises Guidance on Food Product Labeling, Favors 'Best If Used By'

By Lauren R. Hartman, Product Development Editor

Dec 16, 2016

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service issued updated information Dec. 14, regarding food product labeling, including a guidance aimed at reducing food waste through a new "Best if Used By" date label. The new label was chosen because the Food Safety and Inspection Service found that consumers found the phrase to be an indicator of quality rather than safety.

"In an effort to reduce food loss and waste, these changes will give consumers clear and consistent information when it comes to date labeling on the food they buy," said Al Almanza, USDA deputy under secretary for food safety. "This new guidance can help consumers save money and curb the amount of wholesome food going in the trash."

Except for infant formula, product dating is not required by federal regulations, the FSIS added. Food manufacturers frequently use various phrases, such as “Sell-by” and “Use-by” on product labels to describe quality dates on a voluntary basis. The use of different phrases to describe quality dates has caused consumer confusion and has led to the disposal of food that is otherwise wholesome and safe because it's past the date printed on the package, the agency said.

The FSIS says it's "changing its guidance to recommend the use of 'Best if Used By' because research shows this phrase is easily understood by consumers as an indicator of quality, rather than safety. Comments on this revised guidance may be submitted for 60 days through the Federal eRulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov.

More information is available from the FSIS at www.fsis.usda.gov.

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