How Expiration-Label Standards Could Affect C-Stores

Abbey Lewis, Editor in Chief, CSProducts

Groceries on shelves

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A new grocery-industry effort to standardize expiration-date labeling and reduce consumer confusion about product date labels will have ripple effects across channels, including c-stores. The adoption of standard wording on packaging, regarding the quality and safety of the products sold in stores, should also help retailers and consumers cut down on food waste.

Today there are more than 10 different date labels on packages, including Sell By, Use By, Expires On, Best Before, Better if Used By, Best By and more. The lack of consistency routinely leaves consumers confused and causes premature discarding of safe or usable product.

Read on to see how the label standards could affect products lining c-store shelves ...

The new initiative would be voluntary and would streamline the many ways date labels are carried out on CPG products to just two: Best If Used By and Use By. 

Best If Used By describes the product quality, meaning the item may not taste or perform as expected but is safe for consumption. 

use by date

Use By applies to products that are highly perishable and/or would create a food-safety concern over time. Products with the Use By date should be consumed by the date on the packaged and disposed of after that. 

Exp date

The initiative for common phrasing is led by the Food Manufacturing Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, both major trade associations for retailers and CPG companies. They're encouraging retailers and manufacturers to immediately begin phasing in the common wording with widespread adoption by summer 2018. 

"Our product-code dating initiative is the latest example of how retailers and manufacturers are stepping up to help consumers and to reduce food waste," said Pamela G. Bailey, GMA president and CEO. About 44% of food waste sent to landfills comes from consumers, and standardizing the labeling to reduce confusion could reduce national food waste by 8%, according to FMI.

"Eliminating confusion for consumers by using common product date wording is a win-win because it means more products will be used instead of thrown away in error," said Jack Jeffers, vice president of quality for Dean Foods. "It's much better that these products stay in the kitchen--and out of landfills."

"Research shows that the multitude of date labels that appear on foods today are a source of confusion for many consumers," said Frank Yiannas, vice president of food safety and health for Wal-Mart. "As advocates for the customer, we're delighted with this industrywide collaborative initiative that will provide consistency, simplify consumers' lives and reduce food waste in homes across America."

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