Brain Food: The Official Blog of IFT

How Confusion Over Date Labeling Can Lead to Food Waste

Food Waste

August 07, 2018

By Rosie Newsome

There's a lot of confusion and misunderstanding out there surrounding the way the dates on labels relate to food quality and safety. This confusion and misunderstanding may detract from limited regulatory resources, cause financial loss, and contribute to significant food waste.

A variety of date labeling (sometimes referred to as "date marking" or “code dating”) is used on packaged foods and beverages. In the United States, except for a few situations (e.g., requirements for infant formula to assure nutrient content and consumption quality), date labeling is not subject to federal regulations, and date labeling varies considerably among states and jurisdictions across the country.

Because date labeling terminology and use varies so extensively in the United States and other countries, there is considerable misunderstanding about what it means with regard to quality or safety of the food or beverage product. This, unfortunately, leads to food waste—a substantial global issue—when products are unnecessarily discarded because they are thought to be unsuitable for consumption.

Check out the infographic below to learn more about how confusion over date labeling can contribute to food waste...and to see what we can do about it: 

Food Labeling Waste infographic

IFT has developed an advocacy toolkit on Date Labeling, designed to help promote greater knowledge and understanding about this topic and its impact on consumers. Check it out here, and feel free to share on social media!


See more IFT resources on date labeling


Source: Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, Applications and Perceptions of Date Labeling of Food, July 2014

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