Date labeling initiative helping to reduce food waste

The Grocery Manufacturers Association says that narrowing the date labels used on food can help consumers waste less.

December 27, 2018

The Grocery Manufacturers Association, Washington, D.C, recently shared the results of its date labeling initiative that narrowed the array of product labels to two options: “best if used by” and “use by.” Since launching in 2017, 87 percent of products now carry the streamlined labels, according to the latest data from consumer packaged goods companies that was released in GMA’s new report, “Best If Clearly Labeled.”

“Our industry is committed to empowering consumers to make informed decisions about the products they bring into their homes,” GMA President and CEO Geoff Freeman says. “This is a proactive industry that put forward a proactive solution to give American families the confidence and trust they deserve in the goods they buy.”

After uncovering widespread consumer confusion about the array of date labels used in grocery settings in the past, GMA joined with the Food Marketing Institute, Arlington, Virginia, to bring together 25 manufacturers and grocery retailers to develop the two streamlined options.

New data from GMA shows the importance of clear, concise date labels in helping consumers make educated decisions when it comes to their food. The vast majority (76 percent) of Americans shop for groceries at least once a week, but some of the food they bring home may not reach the table—even if it is still safe to consume. While some Americans turn to the sniff test (24 percent) or food’s appearance (30 percent), most commonly, they determine whether to throw food away based on the dates on the label (44 percent).

The two definitions of “best if used by” and “use by” are clear to nearly nine in ten (88 percent) respondents. Another 85 percent said moving to only those two labels would be helpful to them.

When asked how narrowed date labels would be helpful to Americans, the top benefits were: 1) feeling safer about the foods they eat; 2) believing they would throw less away; 3) saving money by throwing less away; and 4) being more confident in the products they use.

“Date labeling is a step toward meaningful food waste reduction that makes it easier for Americans to shop smarter and throw away less,” Freeman added.

With widespread adoption of the streamlined labels, GMA is turning to social media using the hashtag “#10ItemsLess” to set a 2019 goal for every American household to throw out 10 items less than they did the year before. If every American household threw out 10 fewer items, assuming an average item weight of eight ounces, there would be 638 million pounds less food waste, GMA says.