Food First Blog | Tip of the Week: Defining “Best if Used By” Phr

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Tip of the Week: Defining “Best if Used By” Phrase
Tip of the Week: Defining “Best if Used By” Phrase

Reduction of food waste, quality-based date labeling, and best practices on food storage are three topics the FDA is looking at to raise awareness and inform food producers.

The latest figures from consumer research evaluated by the FDA estimates that confusion over date labeling accounts for 20 percent of the general publics’ food waste. Date labeling on food packages has historically been for communicating optimal food quality, but most consumers believe these dates are intended for food safety.

“This is why the FDA is focused on taking steps to make date labeling on foods clearer and easier for consumers to determine when a food should be discarded.” said FDA Deputy Commissioner Frank Yiannas. “We remain committed to working with the EPA and USDA to better educate Americans on how to reduce food waste and how to do it safely.”

Phrases on products, such as “Best If Used By,” “Use By,” and “Sell By,” are still undefined so they are often misinterpreted. According to a 2007 survey of US consumers, less than half those questioned were able to differentiate between the meaning of the three common phrases. US consumers surveyed explained the cause of their confusion is due to fears about food safety and uncertainty about storage of perishable foods.

The leading phrase

Whether on a meat product package, butter container, or cereal box, the phrase “Best if Used By” is most preferred by consumers for conveying an estimate of optimum food quality. FDA strongly supports industry’s voluntary efforts to use the “Best if Used By” phrase for quality-based date labeling to indicate when a product will be at its best flavor and quality.

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