Food waste is an ongoing challenge faced by the United States (US). According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), approximately 30-40% of the annual food supply is thrown away. This issue arises from consumers misinterpreting the dates indicated on product labels.
In response to the challenges of food waste, the Food Date Labeling Act was introduced to the US Congress in May 2023. To bring awareness to this Act, Food Logistics hosted a webinar—sponsored by TEKLYNX and Brother—to discuss the impact of standardizing date labeling to “BEST if used by” for quality dates and “USE by” for expiration dates.
This blog will highlight the interview between Marina Mayer, Editor-in-Chief of Food Logistics, and Ryan Richard, Vice President of Community Engagement at GS1 US, as they discuss the must-knows of the Food Date Labeling Act. If you want to watch the interview, download the full webinar.
Marina Mayer (MM), Food Logistics: Let’s first talk about the Food Date Labeling Act, which would mandate and standardize date labeling for food. The bill would establish two standard labels, “BEST if used by” for quality dates and “USE by” for discard or expiration dates. Walk us through what this looks like for food processors and shippers.
Ryan Richard (RR), GS1 US: There are different dates on food packaging today and they’re not consistent across industries. The Food Date Labeling Act will streamline things and make food dates easier to understand for consumers. Consumers will be able to tell if the date is for freshness and quality or a drop-dead date, which is the expiration date when products can no longer be used. This Act streamlines those dates, which will hopefully make it easier to reduce food waste and encourage consumers to eat more of the food that's in their pantries.
MM: In the US, food waste is estimated at between 30-40% of the food supply (USDA). How does the Food Date Labeling Act aim to resolve issues with food waste and food insecurity?
RR: Approximately 30% of our available food goes to waste on a daily basis. Think about what could happen if we could ensure that food doesn't go to waste and is donated to folks who are facing food insecurity. Dates on packaging can be confusing to understand for so many, including food pantries because of a lack of standards – so they're discarding food or unable to accept donations. If there’s a quality date, AND “BEST if used by,” it’ll show food is still safe for consumption. This can help both the supply chain and those facing food insecurity.
MM: What would be some of the challenges or setbacks food processors would face with regards to the Food Date Labeling Act?
RR: It’s a process change, and can be looked at as the retooling of a process which takes money and capital. Improvements mean change, and sometimes people don't like change. They are going to have to look at their processes and how they identify these dates today. Streamlining is going to take some effort, but the outcome is well worth the effort it’s going to take to get there.
MM: What should companies be doing now to adhere to guidelines set forth by the Food Date Labeling Act?
RR: They should look at their current processes. Ask themselves: What dates am I using? How do I determine those dates? They need to talk to their trading partners: the ones who are buying and using the products. Understand what their needs are, and how they are using those dates. From there, educate consumers about what the new dates mean on products. Companies should also do internal education. They should break down the Food Date Labeling Act, so everyone is clear on the end state the company is trying to achieve with the Act.
MM: What could standardizing barcode labels do for the food supply chain?
RR: Standardizing barcode labels as we move forward is going to help enhance consumer and retailer engagement with products. With Sunrise 2027, all retail establishments want to be able to scan a 2D barcode, that resembles a QR code. 2D barcodes combined with GS1 Digital Link contain more information than a traditional 1D barcode. They provide consumers more opportunities for engagement, like showing the expiration date or recipes for that product.
MM: What advice would you give food manufacturers for the future to ensure their barcode labeling environment is always ready for change?
RR: FSMA 204 is going to be here before we know it. From a manufacturer's perspective, it is important to understand what products are on the Final Rule list. You need to know how it is going to affect your operations and what kind of records need to be kept. Work with your industry partners to understand these things. By doing all that, you are getting ready for the Food Date Labeling Act, FSMA 204, and 2D barcodes.
The Food Date Labeling Act conversation will continue to expand and attract attention as more details emerge. Companies must be proactive in staying ahead of the changes with FSMA and the Food Date Labeling Act. As companies start to create more 2D barcodes it is important to have a barcode labeling software provider that can meet your needs. TEKLYNX CODESOFT can help you stay aligned with the current and future barcode regulations in the food and beverage industry.
CODESOFT allows you to leverage database connections to pull “BEST if used by” or “USE by” dates onto your barcode labels. CODESOFT also offers a GS1 barcode generator wizard, which makes it easy to generate 2D barcodes. Download a free 30-day trial of CODESOFT and see how it can help you meet regulatory requirements.
Jenna Wagner, Global Marketing Director, is a successful strategic marketing executive with over 20 years of marketing experience in software technology and consulting services. She is a creative, dynamic, results-driven leader who possesses a passion for developing her teams. She leverages her deep understanding of the solutions and industries she serves to deliver impactful customer value throughout the global supply chain to help organizations barcode better.
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