You’re standing in your kitchen with the refrigerator door open, staring down at a gallon of milk, spending some serious time debating if it’s too far past the “sell by” date to pour on your morning Mini-Wheats. You reluctantly go in for the dreaded sniff test.

But uneasiness no more, thanks to 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 these labels 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.

Retailers and manufacturers are encouraged to immediately begin phasing in the common wording with widespread adoption urged by the summer of 2018.

“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.”

The new initiative  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.

See the full story at PR Newswire.




Meghan is a full-time writer exploring the fun facts behind food. She lives a healthy lifestyle but lives for breakfast, dessert and anything with marinara. She’s thrown away just as many meals as she’s proud of.