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Sen. Blumenthal Introduces Bill to Reduce Confusion of Dates on Food Labels

Sen. Blumenthal Introduces Bill to Reduce Confusion of Dates on Food Labels

The Food Date Labeling Act creates a uniform national labeling system that distinguishes between foods whose date indicates peak quality from foods that bear a label indicating they may become unsafe to eat past the stated date.

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) on Wednesday introduced legislation to standardize the labeling of dates on foods. The move is intended to curtail consumer confusion, reduce the premature discarding of safe food, and simplify compliance with regulations for food companies.

Such date labels as “sell by," “use by," and “expires on" are confusing to consumers and contribute to the majority of Americans prematurely throwing away safe food, the lawmakers said. The Food Date Labeling Act creates a uniform national labeling system that distinguishes between foods whose date indicates peak quality from foods that bear a label indicating they may become unsafe to eat past the stated date, they noted in a press release.

“One of the most common arguments people seem to have at home is about whether or not food should be thrown out just because the date on the label has passed," Pingree said in a statement. “It's time to settle that argument, end the confusion and stop throwing away perfectly good food."

This legislation is based on recommendations from the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic, and the Food Date Labeling Working Group. The bill also is consistent with two studies that found consumer education and standardizing food date labels are the most cost-effective strategies to decrease food waste, according to the press release.

Several organizations expressed support for the legislation. “The current patchwork system of state laws with varying standards has created considerable confusion and left many consumers wondering when date labels really matter, and whether they should pay attention to them at all," the Consumer Federation of America said in the release.  

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