Consumer Confusion, Disagreement Over Product Date Labels: Poll

According to a recent poll conducted for the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and Food Policy Action Network by Lake Research Partners, almost 60 percent of Americans have talked with others in their households about the meaning of date labels on foods, indicating that the current range of date labels are confusing for consumers. Further bolstering that perception, the survey found that 40 percent of adults said they’ve had disagreements within their households regarding whether a food product should be kept or discarded.

“Clarity on product date labeling will reduce confusion, cut food waste and enable households to spend their time arguing about something other than what a date label means, like sports, politics or what channel to watch on TV,” said Meghan Stasz, senior director of sustainability at Washington, D.C.-based GMA.

In February, GMA and Food Marketing Institute teamed up to simplify and standardize the wording on food packages’ date labels to provide more clarity as to the quality and safety of products.

The voluntary initiative whittles the multiple date labels on consumer product packaging to just two standard phrases. “Best If Used By” denotes product quality, indicating that the item may not taste or perform as expected after a certain date, but is still safe to consume. “Use By” applies to those products that are highly perishable and/or have a food safety concern over time; these items should be consumed by the date noted on the package, and thrown out after that date has passed.

Among the poll’s additional findings:

  • Older Americans are slightly more likely to keep food longer, while younger Americans are more likely to throw food away earlier, based on the date label.
  • Democrats and Republicans alike said that they’re the ones in the household who are interested in keeping food longer (56 percent versus 59 percent).
  • More men said that they’re the ones in the household arguing to keep food longer: 64 percent of men make this claim, versus 56 percent of women.

The poll surveyed more than 1,000 adult Americans of all ages and political persuasions.

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