Assemblymember David Chiu (D- San Francisco) has introduced AB 954 which seeks standardize phrasing used on printed food date labels, in an effort to reduce the 20% of consumer food waste that comes from confusion with date labels.
Last year CAW teamed up with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Assemblymember Chiu to sponsor AB 2725, a bill which would have standardized the dizzying variety of phrases used on food date labels in order to reduce food waste. Food date labels come in a variety of phrases, such as "Enjoy by", "Freshest by", "Best By", "Sell By", and so on.
The bill would have required only one phrase to be used to communicate quality and one phrase to be used to communicate safety, along with prohibiting consumer visible sell by dates which provide no useful information to consumers. Due to industry opposition, AB 2725 did not pass, but we continued to work on the issue and pushed for the industry to work to solve this problem.
Many food date labels have nothing to do with safety and are merely a best guess by the manufacturer of how long the product will be at it's peak freshness. Despite this, many cautious consumers see these dates and toss out perfectly healthy and wholesome food just because it is past "the date". This is not only a waste of money for consumers, but also a waste of the resources it took to grow, process, and transport that food. Much of that wasted food makes its way to landfills where it will slowly rot and release methane gas, a powerful greenhouse gas and super pollutant.
But, we have made progress!
This year, two major food industry retail and manufacturer associations have adopted voluntary, standardized phrases for food date labels and have asked major companies to begin implementing the new phrases. The new voluntary phrases are "BEST if used by" to describe product quality, and "USE by" to describe a product that may be a food safety concern after a date. We applaud these associations for recognizing the value of standardizing date labels in the fight against food waste and hope to continue these conversations with AB 954.