FDA Endorses “Best If Used By” Label for Food
Packaged food and beverage products for retail sale contain an array of date labels, such as “Use by,” “Best If Used By,” “Expires On,” etc. Ultimately, with few exceptions, such as labels for infant formula, data labels are not required on packaged foods. While manufacturers are prohibited from placing false or misleading information on a label, they are not required to obtain agency approval of the voluntary quality-based date labels they use or specify how they arrived at the date they’ve applied.
There have been a number of initiatives, both by industry and by government, to standardize date marking on foods, which this blog has covered here and here. Most recently, USDA’s FSIS announced an updated fact sheet on food product labeling, encouraging food manufacturers and retailers that apply product dating to use a “Best if Used By” date label. Our coverage of FSIS’ action can be found here.
FDA has followed suit, announcing in a letter to food companies that the agency “strongly supports” the voluntary industry-wide efforts to use the “Best if Used By” phrase when choosing to include a quality-based date label to indicate when a product will be at its best flavor and quality. In the letter, Deputy Commissioner Frank Yiannas notes that while industry has recommended the phrase “Use By” to apply to perishable products that should be consumed by the date on the package, “FDA is not addressing the use of a “Use by” product date label for safety reasons at this time.”