May 28, 2019

FDA wants food makers to utilize ‘Best If Used By’ date labeling for non-perishable goods

The Food and Drug Administration is urging the food industry to adopt “Best If Used By” introductory phrase for date labeling that has to do with product quality, but not safety.

In an open letter to the food industry, FDA Deputy Commissioner Frank Yiannas cites consumer confusion as a major factor in Americans throwing away food that is safe to eat.

“It has been estimated that confusion over date labeling accounts for approximately 20% of consumer food waste,” wrote Yiannas, citing ReFED statistics.

The FDA wants food producers to streamline use of “Best If Used By” when citing a date after which a product may no longer be at optimal quality or taste, but is still safe to consume.

“Consumer research has found that the ‘Best If Used By’ introductory phrase communications to consumers the date by with the product will be of optimal quality,” Yiannas said.

That does not include perishable products that should be discarded after a specific date because of safety reasons, in which case food companies should continue to use the “Use By” phrase.

Yiannas said a 2007 survey of U.S. consumers, less than half were able to differentiate between the meanings of the three introductory phrases often used in date labeling: “Sell By,” “Use By” and “Best If Used By.” He added that the FDA will continue to push for more consumer education efforts by the industry, as well as government and non-government agencies.

USDA Economic Research Service data shows that Americans waste approximately $161 billion worth of food each year.

The USDA states that “foods not exhibiting signs of spoilage should be wholesome and may be sold, purchased, donated and consumed beyond the labeled ‘Best If Used By’ date.”

Full letter by FDA’s Frank Yiannas