Date Labels: The Case for Federal Legislation

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Federal action is necessary to fix our broken system of date labels on foods. Congress can pass legislation to ensure that standard labels are used across the country on all foods, and can preempt unreasonable restrictions on past-date sale or donation, reducing the unnecessary waste of wholesome food. Standardizing date labels also will create an opportunity for the development of a national consumer education campaign, coordinated across industry and the public sector, to ensure standard labels have the desired outcomes when consumers bring foods home. This issue brief will make the case for federal action to standardize date labels by laying out the background on why the current date labeling system causes confusion and food waste; analyzing the weaknesses in private voluntary initiatives and patchwork state legislative solutions; and finally, making specific recommendations for addressing date labels through federal legislation to ensure the desired impact of consumers, businesses, and governmental agencies understanding the proper meaning of date labels.

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