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Mystery Date: Advocating for a Harmonized System of Expiration Date Labeling of Food

Posted by on Thursday, January 19, 2017 in Blog, Left column, Notes, Vol. 49 No. 5, Volume 49, Volumes.

Americans throw out roughly 25 percent of the food they bring home. Negative perceptions associated with expiration dates are a leading cause for this waste. However, a complex patchwork of state-run regulatory regimes and varying terminology makes it difficult for consumers to determine whether a food product is unsafe to eat or simply past a peak quality level arbitrarily set by manufacturers. Regulatory trends in Europe, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand suggest a move towards binding expiration date labeling through guidelines for establishing a “best before” or “use-by” date. This Note examines laws currently in place in these five jurisdictions, analyzes global and local legal requirements to be met by any proposed expiration date-labeling regulation, and proposes a model food-labeling regulation that may be adopted by governments globally to facilitate commerce and protect consumer choice.

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