FDA Backs Industry’s Product Date Labeling Initiative
The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) has received a letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expressing its approval of the grocery industry’s efforts, in tandem with the food manufacturing sector, to clear up consumer confusion about food product date labels.
“As approximately 80 percent of the foods in the U.S. are regulated by the FDA, we would like to inform our regulated food industries that FDA strongly supports industry’s voluntary industry-wide efforts to use the ‘Best if Used By’ introductory phrase when choosing to include a quality-based date label to indicate when a product will be at its best flavor and quality,” wrote Frank Yiannas, deputy commissioner, food policy and response in the May 23 letter.
The agency declined for the present, however, to address the industry’s recommendation of the use of a product date label with the phrase “Use By” to indicate when products should be consumed or discarded for safety reasons.
“On behalf of FMI’s retail, wholesale and manufacturer members, we sincerely appreciate FDA’s recognition of the industry’s dedication to seeking solutions and mitigating consumer confusion in the marketplace regarding how best to navigate the myriad product code date labels on grocery shelves across the country,” responded Leslie Sarasin, president and CEO of Arlington, Va.-based FMI, whose member companies operate almost 33,000 retail food stores and 12,000 pharmacies. “The agency’s endorsement signals a best practice in ways industry partners can truly deliver on a promise to provide guidance to our customers that is easier to understand.”
She added that the organizations expected “continued discussions with both FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture regarding the small universe of food products that require a demarcation for food storage and safety,” going on to note, “Through enhanced education and transparent communication, consumer confidence in their grocery stores as advocates for their health will only increase.”
In 2017, FMI and the Washington, D.C.-based Grocery Manufacturers Association rolled out a nationwide voluntary initiative urging the adoption of standard date-label wording on packages to provide guidance regarding the quality and potential degradation of foods, which has implications for the reduction of food waste.