Today, at the Food Waste Summit hosted by the National Consumers League (NCL) and Keystone Policy Center, FLPC, NCL, and Johns Hopkins University Center for Livable Future released their findings from a national survey on consumer perception of date labels in the report Consumer Perceptions of Date Labels: National Survey. The survey aimed to understand the extent to which consumers are confused about date labels, whether they throw away food after the date passes, perceptions about whether labels are federally regulated, and which labels most clearly communicate quality and safety, for purposes of standardizing the language Many people throw away food once the date passes because they think the date is an indicator of safety, but in fact for most foods the date is a manufacturer’s best guess as to how long the product will be at its peak quality. With only a few exceptions, food will remain wholesome and safe to eat long past its expiration date. The survey, and subsequent report, confirms widespread consumer confusion over food date labeling and how it likely contributes to to the 40% of food wasted in the U.S. each year.
Excerpt from the report:
“More than one third of the population (37%) says they always or usually throw away food because it is close to or past the date that appears on the package. 84% of consumers throw out food based on date labels at least occasionally.”
As efforts are underway in Congress to standardize date labels that indicate quality versus safety, the reports also provides useful data on which date labels consumers perceive most strongly as communicating quality and which most strongly communicate food safety.