Consumers Have Trouble Reading Food Labels

DanIndustry News Release

consumersA new poll finds that many American consumers are having issues with date labels on their food products. The poll, led by the Grocery Manufacturers Association, found 60 percent of 1,000 American consumers surveyed have had discussions in their homes about the exact meaning of such terms as “best by, use by, sell by, use or freeze by” that currently are found on food labels. GMA says the resulting confusion not only makes it difficult to determine whether food is safe to eat but also causes disagreements among 40 percent of poll respondents on whether the food should be eaten or thrown away. The GMA and poll co-sponsor Food Policy Action Network acted in February with a goal of streamlining and standardizing the words on date labels. The organizations now believe that using the words “Best If Used By” to describe product quality and the term “Use By” to address perishability concerns can clear up the consumer confusion, according to Meatingplace. The groups say that eliminating date label confusion can save U.S. households money and time and help eliminate food waste.

From the National Association of Farm Broadcasting News Service.

from Grocery Manufacturers Association

New Poll on Product Date Labels Shows Confusion and Dissension Within Households

A new poll shows that nearly 60 percent of Americans have had a discussion within their household about the meaning of date labels on their food.

The poll, conducted for the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and Food Policy Action Network by Lake Research Partners, surveyed over 1,000 adult Americans of all ages and political leanings. The poll findings clearly illustrate that the current range of variations of date labels such as “best by, use by, sell by, use or freeze by,” found on food products around the country is problematic for consumers.

The disparate terms cause confusion among Americans about what each of these different labels mean for product safety, and whether a food is still safe to eat. In fact, the survey found that 40 percent of adults say they have had disagreements within their household over whether a food product should be kept or thrown away.

“Clarity on product date labeling will reduce confusion, cut food waste, and enable households to spend their time arguing about something other than what a date label means, like sports, politics, or what channel to watch on TV,” said Meghan Stasz, GMA’s senior director of sustainability.

In February, GMA and the Food Marketing Institute joined together to streamline and standardize the wording accompanying the date labels on packages to offer greater clarity regarding the quality and safety of products.

The new voluntary initiative streamlines the myriad date labels on consumer products packaging down to just two standard phrases. “BEST If Used By” describes product quality, indicating that the product may not taste or perform as expected but is safe to use or consume. “USE By” applies to the few products that are highly perishable and/or have a food safety concern over time; these products should be consumed by the date listed on the package – and disposed of after that date. This initiative will help reduce consumer confusion over dates on the product label, save households time and money, and help reduce unnecessary food waste.

Other interesting poll findings include:

  • Older Americans are slightly more likely to keep food longer, while younger Americans are more likely to throw food away earlier based on the date label.
  • For once, Democrats and Republicans can agree on something! Both Democrats and Republicans stated that they are the ones in the household who are interested in keeping food longer (56 percent to 59 percent).
  • More men say they are the ones in the household arguing to keep food longer; 64 percent of men make this claim, versus 56 percent of women.