Share Spotlight on Date Labeling Regulations

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(Last Updated 07/28/2022)

Test your date label knowledge

You may have heard that food date labels are a significant contributor to food waste. Take this quiz to test your knowledge and learn how policy can influence good date labeling practices.

  1. For which foods does the federal government regulate date labels?
    • Answer: Infant Formula

      Infant formula is the only product for which a date label is federally regulated. This is not because of a safety concern, but because the nutrients in the formula decline over time. All other labeling requirements are stipulated by a patchwork of state and local laws, though manufacturers generally choose the dates on packages. Over a third of Americans believe that the federal government regulates date labels.

  2. Which of these labels relates to product safety?
    • Answer: None of the above

      Currently, date labels generally are not intended to indicate a food product’s safety. These dates are generally set by the manufacturer based on an estimate of when the food will still taste fresh, so that consumers will have the best experience of the product. In 2021, ReFED helped draft the Food Loss and Waste Policy Action Plan that advocated for the use of two standard phrases to indicate either the peak quality (“BEST If Used By”) or safety (“USE By”). The Food Date Labeling Act would enact this change.

  3. Who is responsible for determining what date goes on a particular food?
    • Answer: The manufacturer.

      In most cases the date on a label is a manufacturer’s estimate of the point after which a food will no longer be at “peak quality.” With only a few exceptions, food will remain wholesome and safe to eat long past its expiration date.

  4. What percentage of Americans report occasionally throwing away foods that have reached or exceeded the date on the label?
    • Answer: 84%

      84% of Americans report occasionally throwing away food that is close to or past the date on the package; 37% do so always or usually.

  5. How many states restrict selling some foods past the date on the label?
    • Answer: 21

      Twenty-one states restrict sales or donations of some foods past the date label, even if the food is still healthy and safe to eat. This makes it more difficult to use food recovery methods to mitigate food waste caused by date labeling practices.

  6. Quiz Results - X/5 Correct

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    Congratulations! You already know a lot about how food date labeling practices and policies are contributing to food waste.

    Next, see how different state-level policies affect food waste, and explore potential federal policy solutions to the problem.

    Thanks for taking the quiz! We hope you learned something new about how date labeling practices and regulations are contributing to food waste.

    Next, see how different state-level policies affect food waste, and explore potential federal policy solutions to the problem.

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About This Tool

ReFED and the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic collaborated to develop the Food Waste Policy Finder in order to provide an overview of current federal and state policies related to food waste. The tool is intended to depict the existing policy landscape while highlighting best-practice legislation in order to promote the continued development and implementation of sound food waste policy.