GMA: 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.

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Washington, D.C. (July 25, 2016) — 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.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) is the trade organization representing the world’s leading food, beverage and consumer products companies and associated partners. The U.S. food, beverage and consumer packaged goods industry plays a unique role as the single largest U.S. manufacturing employment sector, with 2.1 million jobs in 30,000 communities across the country that deliver products vital to the wellbeing of people in our nation and around world. Founded in 1908, GMA has a primary focus on product safety, science-based public policies and industry initiatives that seek to empower people with the tools and information they need to make informed choices and lead healthier lives. For more information, visit

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