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Tackling Food Waste, FDA Supports Standard Terminology for Date Codes

May 29, 2019

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week urged food companies to adopt voluntary standardized terminology for date labeling of food in an effort to help reduce food waste in America. 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 optimal quality.

Not everyone in the dairy industry will be able to use the voluntary terminology, however.

“Notwithstanding FDA’s letter, it is important to note that the dairy industry is subject to state regulations for code dating milk. Some states require code dating nomenclature using ‘Sell By’ or similar terms, thus prohibiting the use of the FDA recommend terminology,” said Danielle Quist, IDFA senior director of regulatory affairs. “Also, FDA’s recommendation only applies to date labeling that indicates the best quality, not safety.”

Although FDA’s position aligns with labeling suggestions from the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute, IDFA has advocated for using the phrase “Best By” due to limited space for date labeling on dairy and food packages. IDFA also supports providing additional language that outlines proper handling and storage practices, such as “Keep Refrigerated” or “Consume within X days of opening.”

For more details, read IDFA's position paper on food waste here and visit the food waste page on IDFA’s website.

Members with questions may contact Quist at

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