Misinterpretation of food date labels is a key factor leading to food waste in American households and supermarkets. Governor Brown signed AB 954, THE FOOD WASTE REDUCTION AND DATE LABELING ACT OF 2017, into law on October 15th, 2017. The bill will provide more clarity to consumers about the shelf life of their food by promoting improved food date labels.
“In a state where 6 million families are food insecure, a startling amount of food is being wasted every single day because of arbitrary date labels. Consumers deserve to know what our labels mean and whether or not our food is safe to eat. This bill mirrors industry best practices … which will reduce unnecessary food waste,” said Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco), author of AB 954.
Date labels on food come in a countless variety, some common phrases include, “sell by,” “enjoy by,” “best by,” and “best before.” AB 954 simplifies labels with standardization, “BEST if Used by” or “BEST if Used or Frozen by” to indicate peak freshness, and “USE by” or “USE or Freeze by” to indicate food safety. The use of “Sell by” date labels will be discouraged; these labels are only meant for stock rotation, but are often mistaken as an indication of food safety. For a more complete understanding of food date labels among the public, the new law will also provide consumer education.
Nick Lapis, Director of Advocacy at Californians Against Waste, says that “promoting consistent terminology for date labels will give consumers confidence that their food is safe to eat and may not need to be thrown out.”
Governor Brown also signed another piece of legislation that complements AB 954 in the effort to reduce food waste. AB 1219, the California Good Samaritan Food Donation Act strengthens and expands existing liability protections for food donors, in order to make more food available to food insecure Californians and send less edible food to landfills.
Learn more about date labels and how you can reduce your food waste.