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IDFA Commends Food Industry Initiative on Product Date Labels

Feb 15, 2017

In a new industry-wide effort to reduce consumer confusion about product date labels, grocery manufacturers and retailers have joined together to adopt standard wording on packaging about the quality and safety of products. The new initiative for common phrasing, announced today, is led by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), trade associations for retailers and consumer products manufacturing.

The new voluntary initiative streamlines the myriad date labels on consumer products packaging to two standard phrases: “best if used by” and “use by.”

  • “Best if used by” will apply to product quality, where the product may not taste or perform as expected but is safe to use or consume after this date.
  • “Use by” will apply to products that are highly perishable or have a food safety concern over time and should be consumed or thrown away by the date on the package.

Companies will select the date label language that is most appropriate for their products.

“IDFA commends industry-wide efforts led by the Food Marketing Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association to streamline and standardize the wording accompanying the date labels on packages,” said Michael Dykes, D.V.M., IDFA president and CEO.

In a statement issued today, Dykes said IDFA members strongly support efforts to reduce food waste. While much food is wasted at the consumer level, dairy foods companies can play a leading role by educating consumers to better understand when a perishable food, such as milk, yogurt or cheese, should be thrown out or can still be consumed, he said.

IDFA will be working with the National Consumers League as it expands its consumer education program to reduce food waste.

Working with States to Change Label Requirements

“We know that not all dairy companies will be able to voluntarily change their date labels because several states require specific language for dairy products,” Dykes said. We are committed to working to resolve conflicting state laws that could prevent our milk and dairy companies from adopting standardized date labels.”

For more information, contact Emily Lyons, IDFA director of regulatory affairs and counsel, at or Ruth Saunders, IDFA vice president of policy and regulatory affairs, at