Food Waste

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that discarded food accounts for one-fifth of the waste sent to American landfills and incinerators, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that dairy products make up about 17% of that waste. Overall, consumers generate about 44% of food waste, while another 40% happens at grocery stores, restaurants and other retail outlets.  

Because food waste has such a significant impact food security and sustainability, the EPA and USDA have teamed with the food industry, consumer groups and academic institutions to address the causes of food waste and find solutions to reduce it. Together, they have set a goal to cut food waste in half by 2030.

Our Position

Food waste is a complex and multifaceted problem that requires multiple solutions that the government, industry and consumers can use. IDFA supports improving date labeling, enhancing consumer education, increasing allowable food donations and using discarded food for composting or generating energy, among other initiatives.

We recommend several policy changes and new procedures that will make a positive difference in the fight to improve sustainability and reduce food waste.

By approaching food waste from several fronts, dairy food companies have an opportunity to increase food security, help the hungry and reduce their environmental footprint.

Agency Actions

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) urged food companies in May 2019 to adopt voluntary standardized terminology for date labeling of food in an effort to help reduce food waste. In a letter to the food industry, Frank Yiannas, FDA deputy commissioner of food policy and response, said FDA strongly supports using the phrase “Best If Used By” on packaged-food labeling for dates related to quality.

Not everyone can use the terminology, however. The dairy industry must follow state regulations for code dating milk, and some states require milk processors to use “sell by” or similar terms. That means they can’t use FDA’s recommended phrase. Also, FDA’s recommendation only applies to labeling for quality, not safety.

IDFA’s Initiatives

IDFA member ice cream manufacturers and researchers from USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) met in July 2019 to kick off a collaboration that the dairy industry hopes will lead to reducing food waste from ice cream production. Over the past two fiscal years, IDFA has secured $3 million in federal appropriations for ARS to find an industry-wide solution to ice cream waste.


For more information, contact Danielle Quist, IDFA vice president, regulatory affairs and counsel, at

Staff Contact

Danielle Quist

Vice President, Regulatory Affairs and Counsel