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USDA Overhauls Food Date Labeling For Meat And Dairy

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service provided guidance recently that encourages manufacturers and retailers of eggs, meat and dairy products to use one universal “Best If Used By” date label on their products in order to avoid the confusion caused by the roughly 50 different versions of labels now being used nationwide. It also clarified that the dates on food are designed to help consumers and retailers decide when food is of best quality. Except for infant formula, dates are not an indicator of the product’s safety and are not required by federal law.

The move also aims to eliminate a key cause of consumer food waste in the U.S.

In America, 40 percent of food goes uneaten, and consumers are responsible for more of that waste than grocery stores, restaurants or any other part of the supply chain. Confusing date labels are a major contributor to consumer waste, as they are often misinterpreted as an indicator that food could make them sick and must be tossed, according to the USDA.

The U.S. tosses $162 billion worth of food each year, costing the average American family of four roughly $1,500 every year. Studies show that up to 90 percent of Americans are misinterpreting date labels and throwing food away prematurely, under the misconception that it’s necessary to protect their families’ health.

About the author

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Kristen Cloud

A former newspaper editor and publisher, she once enjoyed leisurely perusing the grocery store aisles but, since having a baby in 2016, she is now an enthusiastic click-and-collect shopper.

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