Congress introduces bills to create a national standard for date marking of food.

  • As previously covered on this blog, food waste is a major issue in the United States.  Government estimates indicate that Americans waste between 30 and 40% of the overall food supply on an annual basis.  According to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), confusion associated with the use of arbitrary “expiration” dates on food packages leads to 90% of Americans throwing away food before actual deterioration or spoilage has occurred.  NRDC and others have been advocating revisions to the nation’s food dating system, including the creation of a standardized approach.
  • Last week, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives introduced bills (S.2947 and H.R.5298) that would standardize the date marking system for foods.  Specifically, The Food Date Labeling Act would establish a uniform national system that distinguishes between foods bearing a label indicating peak quality from foods bearing a label that indicates a potential safety risk if they are consumed after the listed date.  The bill also would ensure that food is allowed to be sold or donated after a quality-based date.
  • This is by no means the first attempt by Congress to create a standardized date marking system for foods in the U.S.  Considering the commitments made just last year by industry and by the federal government to cut back on food waste, it remains to be seen whether there is enough shared interest and political momentum to give this latest measure a realistic chance of becoming law.