If you use the four most common labeling phrases, you have undoubtedly seen or used “Best If Used By” or “Best If Used Before” on food and beverage consumer packaged goods. But not all “Best If Used” expiry date language is equal when it comes to food waste, 30% – 40% of which is due to consumer confusion around the meaning of date codes.
HOW DO DATE CODES RELATE TO FOOD WASTE?
“The use of different phrases to describe quality dates has likely caused consumer confusion and has led to the disposal of food, just because it is past the date printed on the package, food that is otherwise wholesome and safe,” according to the FSIS. A product expiry label that reads “Best if Used By” conveys to the consumer the timeframe of ultimate product quality but that the food is still consumable after that date as long as there are no signs of spoilage.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), “confusion over the meaning of dates applied to food products can result in consumers discarding wholesome food. In an effort to reduce food waste, it is important that consumers understand that the dates applied to food are for quality and not for safety. Food products are safe to consume past the date on the label, and regardless of the date, consumers should evaluate the quality of the food product prior to its consumption.”
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
Using “Best if Used By” versus “Best if Used Before” can significantly impact food waste. To help cut down on consumer confusion and the amount of food waste, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) recommended the “use of a ‘Best if Used By’ date label because a national survey showed that this phrase is easily understood by consumers as an indicator of food quality rather than food safety.”
The Food Marketplace Inc.(FMI) recommendations also align with the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service guidance, “FMI Board members believe that adherence to these standard sets of date code language will enhance consumer understanding regarding the interpretation and use of product dates, possibly helping reduce unnecessary consumer food waste.”
HOW TO DO IT
Many marking systems allow you to customize multiple items including messaging, date layout, and adding lot, and batch codes. Creating and changing codes can be done in seconds and is as easy as texting on a smartphone or tablet when using the Redimark TC12 thermal inkjet date coder. See just how easy it is…