Tell the FDA: A Healthy Meal Shouldn't Come with These Risks!

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Sponsor: The Hunger Site

Fewer than 25 states require dating food labels at all. We need national standards for expiration dates!


When it comes to feeding our families, there should be no second guessing whether commercially available food is safe or nutritious. For too long, the lax requirements dealing with food expiration dates have prompted confusing labeling at best, resulting in hundreds of thousands of tons in wasted food and hungry households1.

Apart from baby formula, there is no federally mandated system in the United States to classify dates by which products must be sold by, are freshest by, and expire, and the differences between. Fewer than 25 states currently require dating labels at all, and where it is required, the date may refer to some characteristic other than food quality2.

The USDA maintains that "use-by" and "sell-by" dates may not determine when a product needs to be thrown away, and that products may still be "safe, wholesome, and of good quality" after that period if handled properly3. But such obscure details are lost on many, leading to at least 40 percent of all food in the US going to waste, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council4.

The inefficiencies of this system are putting the nutritional needs of a significant and growing number of Americans at risk. More than 38 million Americans live in food insecure households, including 12 million children5.

While staggering, these numbers cannot be reduced without an adequate and easily employed solution to determining quality and freshness. Such an option has been proposed by the private and nonprofit collaborative ReFED, formed in 2015 to draw up a "Roadmap to Reduce U.S. Food Waste6."

ReFED's plan, standardizing date labeling throughout the country, could feasibly prevent 400,000 tons of food going to waste in its first year alone.

Other innovations in label design could provide solutions to the problem as well. Strips that change color to indicate freshness over time have been proposed, along with design alterations to ingredient details that simplify and emphasize important nutritional facts7.

We need legislation at the federal level which creates a nationally recognized system for expiration dates, requiring labels indicate a food's peak freshness date as well as the date after which the food is unsafe to eat. The technology to do so is not only available, but easily implemented.

Sign below and tell the FDA's Office of Nutrition, Labeling, and Dietary Supplements that national standards for expiration dates need to be put in place now!

More on this issue:

  1. World Food Program USA (1 October 2021), "Food Waste, Climate Change and Hunger: A Vicious Cycle We Have the Power to Break."
  2. Food Law and Policy Clinic (June 2019), "DATE LABELS: The Case for Federal Legislation."
  3. U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture (2 October 2019), "Food Product Dating."
  4. PBS News Hour (31 August 2019), "Americans waste up to 40 percent of the food they produce."
  5. Feeding America (2022), "Facts about hunger in America."
  6. ReFED (1 June 2016), "The ReFED Roadmap To Reducing Food Waste."
  7. Jennifer Chaussee, Wired (13 July 2016), "We Redesigned Food Labels to Serve Up Real Value."
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The Petition:

Dear Food and Drug Administration, Office of Nutrition, Labeling, and Dietary Supplements,

For far too long, the lax requirements dealing with food expiration dates have prompted confusing labeling at best, resulting in hundreds of thousands of tons in wasted food and hungry households.

When it comes to feeding our families, there should be no second guessing whether commercially available food is safe or nutritious.

Apart from baby formula, there is no federally mandated system in the United States to classify dates by which products must be sold by, are freshest by, and expire, and the differences between. Fewer than 25 states currently require dating labels at all, and where it is required, the date may refer to some characteristic other than food quality.

The USDA maintains that "use-by" and "sell-by" dates may not determine when a product needs to be thrown away, and that products may still be "safe, wholesome, and of good quality" after that period if handled properly. But such obscure details are lost on many, leading to at least 40 percent of all food in the US going to waste, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The inefficiencies of this system are putting the nutritional needs of a significant and growing number of Americans at risk. Almost 38 million Americans now live in food insecure households, including 12 million children.

While staggering, these numbers cannot be reduced without an adequate and easily employed solution to determining quality and freshness. Such an option has been proposed by the private and nonprofit collaborative ReFED, in its "Roadmap to Reduce U.S. Food Waste."

ReFED's plan, standardizing date labeling throughout the country, could feasibly prevent 400,000 tons of food waste every year.

We as Americans deserve a better system, and the technology to do so is not only available, but easily implemented.

I demand legislation at the federal level to create nationally recognized guidelines for expiration dates, requiring labels indicate a food's peak freshness date as well as the date after which the food is unsafe to eat.

Sincerely,

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Signatures: