Lawmakers Find Expiration Dates On Food Too Confusing

Two lawmakers on different sides of the aisle have decided to actually cooperate and get a bill into the mix that might make the lives of everyday Americans a little easier.

Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Washington) noticed how confused people get over the way the dates stamped on products work. Does it mean that the food is spoiled, or just that it isn’t as good as it could be. Nobody seems to know the answer to that because sometimes it means one and sometimes it means the other.

That is why the two got together and crafted a Food Date Labeling Act. Their proposal is aimed at “reducing food waste by eliminating confusion over when food spoils.”

Right now, infant formula seems to be the only thing that is regulated by federal rules. The dates stamped on everything else are derived from “a patchwork of state-based regulations that can be confusing for consumers.”

Under the new proposal, if the date says “Best If Used By” that means that the product has most likely started to deteriorate even under the most favorable storage conditions. When the label says “Use By” that means that “the product’s shelf life is over,” and it should immediately go in the trash before someone consumes it and gets ill.

This isn’t the first time they tried this. They originally introduced the bill in 2016 and it didn’t get very far. They re-introduced the measure on July, 25, 2019 as H.R. 3981.

A notice about the re-filing says “the legislation is designed to end consumer confusion by creating a national standard for date marking of food.” Almost everyone, 90 percent one study says, “prematurely throw out safe food.” This bill will help prevent waste by ensuring that “food is being used and eaten, rather than thrown out due to confusion.” It also allows food to be donated even after the expiration of a quality based date.

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The other date is just a little trickier and the reason the first version got stalled in Congress. The FDA couldn’t come up with guidelines on how to determine “Use by” product dates which provide adequate safety.

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