Product Code Dating


Grocery manufacturers and retailers have joined together to streamline and standardize the wording20151208-FMI-108-WEB accompanying the date labels on packages to offer greater clarity regarding the quality and safety of products. The new industry-wide effort launched by the Grocery Manufacturers Association and Food Marketing Institute will help reduce consumer confusion over dates on the product label and potentially help consumers avoid unnecessary food waste.

Broad industry adoption of this new voluntary standard will occur over time so companies have flexibility to make the changes in a way that ensures consistency across their product categories and doesn’t create unintentional food waste.

A New Product Label Vocabulary

Product Labeling Infographic

(click image to enlarge)

  • “BEST If Used By” or “BEST If Used or Freeze By” quality phrasing will indicate to consumers that after the specified date, the product may not taste or perform as expected but is safe to use or consume. For example, the quality of the product taste or texture may have diminished slightly or it may not have the full vitamin content indicated on the package.
  • “USE By” or “USE or Freeze By” safety phrasing will inform customers that these products should be consumed on or before the date listed on the package. The product should not be consumed after the date on the package due to the product’s perishable nature, and the product should be disposed of. This date label is for perishable products with potential safety implications or material degradation of critical performance, such as nutrition.

FMI Product Date Labeling Resources

Press Release Announcement: 
Frequently Asked Questions: (click on the question below to reveal the answer) 
  • Why are you launching this initiative?
  • How was it developed?
  • How will it change current product date labeling?
  • What is the difference between “BEST If Used By” and “USE By”?
  • Why is company adoption of these standards voluntary? Why not make it mandatory?
  • Would you support a federal standard in this area?
  • How will you get companies to participate in this voluntary program?
  • How long will it take companies to make the change and when will consumers see products with these new terms in supermarkets?
  • What products are covered under this initiative?
  • How do you define “perishable” and what products will include “USE By” for safety?
  • What do you mean by “safety or material degradation of critical performance”?
  • What impact will this initiative have on decreasing food waste?
  • How much will it cost for your companies to adopt these new labeling standards?