Pingree, Newhouse, Blumenthal Reintroduce Bicameral Bill to Standardize Food Date Labels, Cut Food Waste

Press Release

U.S. Representatives Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and Dan Newhouse (R-Washington) and U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) today reintroduced the bipartisan, bicameral Food Date Labeling Act, a bill designed to end consumer confusion around food date labeling and ensure Americans do not feel it is necessary to throw out safe, useable food. Studies have shown that Americans are confused by food date labels, resulting in a significant amount of edible food ending up in landfills. The Food Date Labeling Act will reduce food waste by standardizing date labels on food products.

"It's estimated that around 90 percent of Americans prematurely throw out perfectly safe food, in part because of confusion about what date labels mean. Meanwhile, more than 38 million Americans--including 12 million children--are food insecure, the climate crisis is worsening by the day, and our economy is losing billions every year due to food waste. This staggering waste is not only unacceptable--it's avoidable," said Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, co-chair of the Bipartisan Food Recovery Caucus. "Our current food labeling practices are outdated, confusing, and completely arbitrary. The Food Date Labeling Act gives us an opportunity at the federal level to ensure food is being used and eaten, rather than being thrown out."

"To allow confusing food labeling practices to contribute to unnecessary food waste is absurd -- especially when there are tens of millions of Americans experiencing food insecurity. This is a common sense solution to a pervasive problem, and as co-chair of the Food Recovery Caucus, I am proud to partner with Rep. Pingree and Sen. Blumenthal to reintroduce this legislation which will reform outdated labeling practices, reduce food waste, and help Americans save money," said Congressman Newhouse.

"This bill will help prevent perfectly safe food from going to waste simply because of confusing labeling. Nearly half of our country's food gets thrown out each year while millions of Americans go hungry and the climate crisis worsens," said Senator Blumenthal. "The Food Date Labeling Act would create a uniform food date label that gives consumers a clear understanding of when food is still safe to eat--helping keep good food out of landfills and on Americans' plates."

Currently, there are no federal regulations related to date labels on food products, aside from infant formula. Date labeling regulations are left up to states, which means consumers are left trying to sort out a patchwork of confounding terms. "Sell by," "use by," "freshest on," and "expires on" are just a few of the phrases currently being used on food products. The bipartisan Food Date Labeling Act establishes an easily understood food date labeling system--"BEST If Used By" communicates to consumers that the quality of the food product may begin to deteriorate after the date and "USE By" communicates the end of the estimated period of shelf life, after which the product should not be consumed. Under the legislation, food manufacturers will decide which food products carry a quality date or a discard date. This legislation will also allow food to be sold or donated after its labeled quality date, helping more perfectly good food reach those who need it.

Forty percent of all food produced in the U.S. is wasted, costing our nation $161 billion annually. It is estimated that if all food waste represented an individual country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases globally. Domestic food production accounts for 50 percent of U.S. land use, 80 percent of freshwater consumption, and 10 percent of our total energy budget. Consequently, recovering food helps to ensure that the hard work and resources that go into producing food is not wasted.

Pingree has long recognized that food waste reduction is a win-win, bringing both environmental and economic benefits. Pingree first introduced a version of the date labeling bill, as well as the more comprehensive Food Recovery Act, in the 113th Congress. In the spring of 2018, she launched Congress's first-ever Bipartisan Food Recovery Caucus with former Congressman David Young (R-Iowa), on which she currently serves as co-chair with Congressman Newhouse. The 2018 Farm Bill included her provisions to create the first full-time food loss and waste reduction liaison at USDA, a composting and food waste reduction pilot program, as well as the Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP) to reduce on-farm waste.

Following a request for study made by Pingree and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) in October 2017, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report with recommendations on how the federal government can expand its efforts to reduce food waste. Another GAO report focused on food date labeling was published in 2019.

Provisions to standardize food date labeling to reduce consumer confusion are also included in Pingree and Senator Martin Heinrich's (D-N.M) Agriculture Resilience Act, which was reintroduced in April 2021.

In September 2021, Pingree, Newhouse, and Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) reintroduced the bipartisan School Food Recovery Act, which would create a new program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture to support schools working on food waste reduction projects.