Newhouse Reintroduces Bicameral Bill to Standardize Food Date Labels, Cut Food Waste
Reps. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) and Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) reintroduced the bicameral Food Date Labeling Act, a bill designed to end consumer confusion around food date labeling by standardizing date labels on food products to ensure useable food is not thrown away.
“While we in Central Washington, just like people across the nation, continue to struggle with high prices in the grocery store, an estimated 40 percent of the food production in the U.S. goes to waste. It's important Americans are not prematurely throwing out safe food—and that starts with bettering our food labeling practices,” said Rep. Newhouse, co-chair of the Food Recovery Caucus. “The Food Date Labeling Act will end the consumer confusion around food date labeling so we can reduce the amount of food wasted in our nation and allow Americans to save more of their hard-earned money.”
“Our current food labeling practices are outdated, confusing, and completely arbitrary, resulting in around 90 percent of Americans prematurely throwing out perfectly safe food. This staggering waste takes a toll on families’ wallets, on the environment, and on the economy,” Pingree, co-chair of the Bipartisan Food Recovery Caucus. “By standardizing the food date labeling system and making labels less confusing for consumers, the bipartisan Food Date Labeling Act will help ensure food is being used and eaten, rather than being thrown out,” said Rep. Pingree.
“This legislation would provide consumers and grocers with a clear, consistent food labeling system. Current labels lack clarity about when products are safe to eat—discouraging donations and contributing to food waste and insecurity. The Food Date Labeling Act is an important step toward streamlining our labeling process and reducing the 40 percent of our nation’s food supply that is thrown away every year,” said Senator Blumenthal.
Full text of the bill can be found here.
Currently, there are no federal regulations related to date labels on food products, aside from infant formula. Date labeling regulations are left up to states, which means consumers are left trying to sort out a patchwork of confounding terms. “Sell by,” “use by,” “freshest on,” and “expires on” are just a few of the phrases currently being used on food products.
The Food Date Labeling Act establishes an easily understood food date labeling system—“BEST If Used By” communicates to consumers that the quality of the food product may begin to deteriorate after the date and “USE By” communicates the end of the estimated period of shelf life, after which the product should not be consumed. Under the bill, food manufacturers can decide which of their products carry a quality date or a discard date. It also allows food to be sold or donated after its labeled quality date, helping more food reach those who need it.
An estimated 40 percent of food produced in the U.S. is wasted. Domestic food production accounts for significant land use, water usage, and energy consumption and results in 11% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Consequently, recovering food helps reduce climate change and ensures that the hard work and resources that go into producing food is not wasted.