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Date Labeling Legislation to Reduce Food Waste Introduced

May 25, 2016
Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME)

Legislation that would create national labeling standards to reduce food waste and replace state-by-state date labeling requirements was introduced in the House of Representatives and the Senate last week.

The companion bills, introduced by Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Senator  Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), propose the establishment of a uniform national safety and quality date labeling system that would require manufacturers or retailers to include a date label using the standard language of “best if used by” instead of a patchwork of varying code dates.

“The aim of the legislation is to standardize food date labels across products and across the country, so that the states can no longer have differing code date requirements,” said Ruth Saunders, IDFA vice president of policy and legislative affairs. “As far as safety expiration dates are concerned, the bills would allow the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to include or exempt ready-to-eat products that have a high risk of microbial contamination, which would be determined through a regulatory process.”

Food waste has recently become a hot topic with Congress and the administration, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency this past September announcing the nation’s first-ever food waste reduction goal, to reduce food waste 50 percent by 2030. The goal has been publicly endorsed by several large companies in the food industry as well as the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. Academic reports and surveys, including a most recent report from Harvard University’s Food Law and Policy Clinic, indicate that consumers are confused about food date labeling.

IDFA is following the issue of food waste closely; in December of 2015, IDFA staff met with Representative Pingree to discuss food waste legislation, and has also formed a working group to examine these bills and formulate a position for the dairy industry.

The House Agriculture Committee also held a hearing on Wednesday that examined food waste from field to table. The hearing included testimony from Feeding America, National Resources Defense Council and others. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) has indicated that he will consider working with Representative Pingree on her bill.

For more information about legislation, contact Saunders at

For more information about the regulatory component of food waste, contact Cary Frye at

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