Grocery Industry Launches Initiative to Reduce Confusion on Product Date Labels

9c40c768-9299-4a5b-a143-58d4b3617401articleimage.jpg

16 Feb 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.

 

Currently, more than 10 different date labels on packages – such as Sell By, Use By, Expires On, Best Before, Better if Used By or Best By – can result in confused consumers discarding a safe or usable product after the date on the package.

The new voluntary initiative streamlines the myriad date labels on consumer products packaging down to just two standard phrases. “BEST If Used By” describes product quality, where the product may not taste or perform as expected but is safe to use or consume. “USE By” applies to the few products that are highly perishable and/or have a food safety concern over time; these products should be consumed by the date listed on the package – and disposed of after that date.

The new initiative for common phrasing is led by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), the two major trade associations for retailers and consumer products manufacturing.

Retailers and manufacturers are encouraged to immediately begin phasing in the common wording with widespread adoption urged by the summer of 2018. Broad industry adoption of this new voluntary standard will occur over time so companies have flexibility to make the changes in a way that ensures consistency across their product categories.
 
“Our product code dating initiative is the latest example of how retailers and manufacturers are stepping up to help consumers and to reduce food waste,” said Pamela G. Bailey, GMA president and CEO.

“The shopper remains the most critical audience in our industry, and as the associations representing major food brands and retailers, we want to encourage a consistent vocabulary so that our customers clearly understand they are purchasing products that are of the highest quality and safety possible,” said Leslie G. Sarasin, FMI president and CEO.  “While we all need nourishment, both retailers and manufacturers also want consumers to have the best experience possible in their stores and consuming their products.”

“The customer comes first in our business, and this voluntary industry initiative provides shoppers with clear, easily understood date label information, so our customers can be confident in the product’s quality and safety,” said Joe Colalillo, president of ShopRite of Hunterdon County, Inc. and chairman and CEO of Wakefern Food Corp.  “Food retailers and manufacturers are working towards the common goal of bringing consistency and greater clarity in product date label messaging. We want to ensure our customers have meaningful information that helps them make the best decisions for their families, both in the store when they shop and when they enjoy foods at home.”   

“Eliminating confusion for consumers by using common product date wording is a win-win because it means more products will be used instead of thrown away in error, “ said Jack Jeffers, Vice President of Quality at Dean Foods, which led GMA’s work on this issue.  “It’s much better that these products stay in the kitchen – and out of landfills.”

Product date labeling changes may result in reduced consumer food waste, but clearing up this confusion is just one of several ways to combat the issue moving forward.  About 44 percent of food waste sent to landfills comes from consumers, and statistics show that addressing consumer confusion around product date labeling could reduce total national food waste by just 8 percent. 

The food industry has stepped up and made considerable progress in reducing food waste. GMA and FMI joined with the National Restaurant Association in 2011 to create the Food Waste Reduction Alliance, which is helping companies find ways to cut food waste. GMA member companies recycled 97 percent of food waste from operations and donated 156 million pounds of food to food banks in 2015. FMI member companies reported 1.5 billion pounds in diverted food waste, including 390 million pounds of food donated to food banks.

Today’s announcement was praised by a range of companies and groups:

“Research shows that the multitude of date labels that appear on foods today are a source of confusion for many consumers,” said Frank Yiannas, Vice President of Food Safety & Health for Walmart. “As advocates for the customer, we're delighted with this industry-wide, collaborative initiative that will provide consistency, simplify consumers' lives, and reduce food waste in homes across America.”

“Clarifying and standardizing date label language is one of the most cost effective ways that we can reduce the 40 percent of food that goes to waste each year in the United States,” said Emily Broad Leib, Director, Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC).  “Having worked for several years on this issue, I am thrilled to see GMA and FMI incorporate FLPC’s recommendations and take this critical step towards making date labels clearer, so that consumers can make better decisions and reduce needless waste of food and money.”

Related Articles

Food Ingredients News

Omya responds to fast-growing need for calcium and vitamin fortification

11 Dec 2017 --- At the beginning of this year, global producer of calcium carbonate, Omya, began to address the needs of the fast-growing vegan market, by expanding their offering of their Calcipur brand for producers of plant-derived drinks based on soy, rice, oat, coconut or almond. As the demand for calcium and vitamin fortification grows due to evolving lifestyles trends, Omya’s platform offers an array of opportunities within the vegan space as well as several major consumer groups. Calcium deficiency is a growing concern and Omya is responding to those requests.

Business News

Brexit breakthrough declared: No “hard border” in Ireland

08 Dec 2017 --- After months of negotiations and what looked like a continuing impasse, finally the UK government and EU have declared a “Brexit breakthrough” having reached a last-minute deal on key points, including the fact there will be no “hard border” in Ireland. For food and beverage industries, the Northern Ireland border is one of the key points that could impact trade and so companies have been closely monitoring Brexit talks for months, hoping that a “hard border” will be avoided. 

Food Ingredients News

Hydrosol MD: Sustainability and shelf-life demands present opportunity

08 Dec 2017 --- Hydrosol (a Stern-Wywiol business unit), presented its new Stabifruit line at FiE 2017 in Frankfurt, an offer to the beverage industry, that is a completely new segment for the company. Hydrosol also presented new developments in ingredients for poultry, vegan meat substitutes, and dairy and whey products. With these functional systems, food manufacturers can easily make products that address current international consumer trends. 

Business News

Gelita CEO: Clean label and collagen among clear pathways for differentiation

07 Dec 2017 --- The clean label trend continues to accelerate, with growing consumer demand for simpler products that contain ingredients with a strong tradition. With this market background, Gelita is looking to highlight its gelatin products on a clean and clear platform, with simplicity being a key strategy. Last week at FiE 2017, FoodIngredientsFirst spoke exclusively to CEO, Dr. Franz Josef Konert on the state of the market and the company’s business strategy for 2018.

Food Ingredients News

Excessive salt levels found in popular branded UK sausages

06 Dec 2017 --- The “shocking and excessively high” amounts of salt in certain UK sausage brands has been flagged by the consumer lobby group Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH). New research conducted by Queen Mary University of London points out that by starting the day with a sausage sandwich, UK residents could be eating nearly two-thirds of an adult’s maximum daily recommended intake (6g salt) – more salt than a double cheeseburger and large fries.

More Articles