Best by? Sell by? Expiration date label confusion may end soon

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Best by? Sell by? Better if Used By? These different date labels on grocery products can be confusing, especially with there being more than 10 different kinds.

"Currently, more than 10 different date labels on packages - such as Sell By, Use By, Expires On, Best Before, Better if Used By or Best By - can result in confused consumers discarding a safe or usable product after the date on the package," the Food Marketing Institute said in a statement Thursday.

So the grocery industry has announced steps to reduce consumer confusion and dwindle the numbers of product date labels to just two - "BEST if Used By" and "USE By."

As FMI explains:

"BEST if Used By" " describes product quality, where the product may not taste or perform as expected but is safe to use or consume.

"USE By" applies to the few products that are highly perishable and/or have a food safety concern over time; these products should be consumed by the date listed on the package - and disposed of after that date.

FMI and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) are leading the new initiative in hopes that retailers and manufacturers will adopt these labels by the summer of 2018.

The two trade associations say product date labeling changes may result in reduced consumer food waste.