May 21, 2016

Confusing labels like "best before" and "enjoy by" may be encountering their own expiration dates soon. New legislation introduced Wednesday by Democrats in the House and Senate is aiming to end the confusion of food labels and set an industry-wide standard.

The Food Labeling Act, proposed by Senator Richard Blumenthal and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, would take the huge collection of varying food labels that indicate freshness and replace them with two plainly worded choices: "Best if used by" to indicate when the food's peak freshness passes and "Expires by" if it's a riskier item like raw meat or egg and is no longer safe to eat.

This might help prevent confusion for consumers, half of whom are reported to not know the meaning of "sell by" and "use by" labels, and seriously cut down on the one-third who say they always toss foods past the label's date.

Besides the labeling, the Act would also prevent states from banning stores from donating their products that are past the "best if used by" label to food banks and soup kitchens. This might help combat the staggering amount of food waste America makes, an estimated 40 percent of all the food it produces each year, and be right in line with President Obama's recently set goal of cutting food waste in half by 2030.

If passed, the Food Labeling Act would give companies two years to comply with the labeling requirements.

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