Best By? Sell By? Use By? Standardizing Product Date Labels

Posted on 02/24/2017 by Left Coast

Pop quiz. Do you know the actual difference in meaning between these food label dates?

  • Expiration Date
  • Sell By Date
  • Best Before Date
  • Best By Date
  • Packaged On Date
  • Use By Date

Not many people do. Many think these all indicate food safety but really most indicate a food’s peak time of ‘flavour’ or ‘enjoyment’ – as decided subjectively by the manufacturer. Recently in the States, the two largest grocery industry trade groups, Food Marketing Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, shared they will be implementing standardized, voluntary product date label regulations. From now on, product dates will be labelled one of two ways: Use By or Best if Used By.

Use By

This option is for foods that need to show when a food is safe to eat by.

Best if Used By

This is a subjective descriptor of when the manufacturer thinks the product’s flavor will be the best by.

Why does it matter? Due to the confusion over product date labels, according to a study by the NRDC and Harvard Law, it contributes to the approximately 160 billion pounds of food wasted in the US each year as about 91% of Americans indicated that they occasionally threw food away based on their mistaken concern over whether food was still safe to eat or not.

It’s pretty self-explanatory why wasting perfectly good food is bad. There are many people who go hungry every day, valuable resources are used, money is wasted, and carbon emissions are produced.

The regulations in the States are voluntary but it’s still a start. Do you think standardization will help reduce food waste? This is what is permitted in Canada.

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