Endorsed June 13, 2017

Revised version adopted January 21, 2023


Issue: FMI’s Board approved a policy statement on product code date labeling in 2017. This revised statement reflects minor updates to the previously approved version.

Recommendation: That the FMI Board approve the updated policy statement on product date labeling.

Product Date Labeling

Food retailers, wholesalers and product suppliers seek to provide consumers with clear information to assist their food purchase decisions, and with relevant guidance regarding the use of the products shoppers have purchased. To this end, FMI recommends industry–wide adoption of a standard use of two Product Date Label phrases on packaging:

“BEST If Used By” or “BEST If Used or Freeze By” as an indication of product quality, which may be truncated to “BEST By” for small packages or “BB” for very small packages. The “BEST If Used By” quality date is intended to indicate to the consumer that, after a specified date, the product may not taste or perform as expected but is safe to use or consume. Note: the word BEST is in all CAPS.

“USE By” or “USE or Freeze By” for those limited perishable products, which may be subject to a material degradation of critical performance (e.g., nutritional or Sun Protection Factor (SPF) declaration) or potential food safety concern. The “USE By” phrase and associated date would be reserved for a small segment of time and temperature sensitive products that should be consumed by the date on the package due to the product’s perishable nature. Note: the word USE is all CAPS.

This recommendation is consistent with the guidance from USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) released in December 2016, calling on the food industry to use the phrase “Best If Used By” to reduce consumer confusion and unnecessary food waste.

FMI Board members believe that adherence to this standard set of date language will enhance consumer understanding regarding the interpretation and use of product dates, helping to reduce unnecessary consumer food waste.