STATEMENT: Food Date Labeling Act a cost-effective solution to food waste

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CHICAGO – A bipartisan, bicameral group of Congresspeople reintroduced a bill on Tuesday that would clarify and standardize food date labels to curb food waste. More than one-third of food goes to waste in the United States each year, and food waste is the single largest category of material sent to municipal landfills. That’s the impetus for the Food Date Labeling Act brought forth by Bipartisan Food Recovery Caucus Co-chair Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).

Date labels contribute to food waste because they can confuse consumers and prompt them to throw out food that is still safe to eat. A 2016 Harvard study found that more than 80% of consumers throw away food that is at or near the date label at least some of the time. With the exception of the information on baby formula, date labels on food are not federally regulated or standardized. The Food Date Labeling Act would change that and limit the number of different phrases on products so that consumers can more easily differentiate issues of safety versus quality. Researchers have found that this policy is the most cost-effective solution to the food waste problem. It costs relatively little money to implement, saves consumers money and prevents more than half a million tons of food waste from entering landfills annually. 

In response, Danielle Melgar, PIRG’s Food & Agriculture Program advocate, released the following statement:

“The food our farmers work hard to produce should be feeding American families, not landfills. It’s absurd that people, stores and restaurants throw away perfectly good food because an arbitrary, hard-to-understand label gets in the way of it being eaten, sold or donated

“Consumers want – and deserve – accurate and useful information about the food that they purchase. It is worrisome when you take a jar of peanut butter out of the pantry and the label seems to say it’s expired. Then, it’s frustrating to find out that what you thought was an expiration date just denotes when the peanut butter’s texture or flavor might start to diminish, so you may have tossed it and bought a whole new jar for no good reason. 

“PIRG is proud to support the Food Date Labeling Act and we thank Rep. Pingree for her leadership on the problem of food waste.”