The letter says the use of the phrase could reduce food waste and help end consumer confusion around product date labels, which can lead to higher levels of food waste as products are discarded as soon as they reach the indicated date. The FDA’s recommendation will not be binding on companies.
Currently date labels for food products are not required by federal law, except for infant formula. The food industry has been using an array of phrases, included “expires on”, “use before”, “sell by” or “best sold by”, though there has been a growing trend among industry groups to adopt the “best if used by” term.
The letter reflects wider FDA efforts to cut down of food waste in the US, which according to the US Department of Agriculture amounts to a third of all purchased food annually.
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