NEW JERSEY – U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) Monday joined with food security advocates, food waste experts, nutritionists, and local grocers to announce his “Fixing Food Labeling Plan” to address unclear and sometimes misleading date labeling on groceries and products from manufacturers.
Unclear food labels are forcing families and stores to throw out food before they need to, Gottheimer said.
Increased unnecessary food waste is resulting in families having to buy groceries more often, it is making business more costly for restaurants and local grocery stores, it is killing the environment, and food banks and charitable organizations are receiving less donations.
Gottheimer’s “Fixing Food Labeling Plan” includes:
- Gottheimer is sending a letter Monday to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) urging them to issue new, national guidance on food date labeling and the science behind those dates to provide desperately needed clarity to families and reduce food waste at our supermarkets, restaurants, and in our pantries at home. Food manufacturers cannot be allowed to decide what date they want to put on the package.
- Gottheimer is helping lead the bipartisan Food Date Labeling Act to establish an easy-to-understand, uniform food date labeling system. This legislation will also allow food to be sold or donated after a “best if used by” date, helping more perfectly good food reach those who need it. Legislation is required so that no future Administrations can roll back food date labeling standards.
Statistics on food waste and date label confusion:
- USDA reports that, every year, more than 30% of our national food supply is lost or wasted because of consumer confusion over the true meaning of date labels displayed on packaged food.
- Up to 90% of Americans throw away food prematurely because of confusion over date labels.
- Every year, families in the United States waste more than 160 billion pounds, or $218 billion dollars’ worth of food.
- New Jersey’s discarded food costs $10 billion a year. With 9.2 million residents, that averages out to about $1,080 dollars per person.
“Because of the lack of standardization for food labels, food manufacturers can pick a random, unscientific date and game the system to prompt quicker removal of products from shelves. That costs all of us here at our local grocers, restaurants, leads to consumer confusion, and billions of pounds of unnecessary waste,” Gottheimer said. “We can help not only reduce costs for families, but also for grocery stores and restaurants — and reduce waste, help the environment, and support harder-pressed families all at the same time. That’s why we are here today, ahead of Memorial Day, a big barbecue and food weekend, to discuss unclear and sometimes misleading date labeling on groceries and products from manufacturers that are forcing families and stores to throw out food before they need to.”
“As part of my ‘Fixing Food Labeling Plan,’ I’m calling for new action that would require food and beverage manufacturers across the country to put real science behind the dates they pick and standardize the dates that they put on their cans, packages, bags, and the like. No more of these confusing labels, or no labels at all,” Gottheimer said.
“A lot of food gets thrown out before the expiration date. It’s a confusing issue and I think education is a big thing … and hopefully we’ll cut down food waste across the country and work on some legislation,” said Stew Leonard’s President and CEO Stew Leonard, Jr.
“In the U.S., most food waste occurs at the consumer level, meaning when we get food at home. That is why The Food Date Labeling Act is so important; it will go a long way in making date labels less confusing for consumers and reducing food waste. While the food industry has tried to make it clear, we need action from the federal government to standardize language and develop educational materials to help consumers make the best decision for both their health and the planet’s health. We were so happy to see the changes in the nutrition fact label to support more transparency and improve consumer discussion-making; it’s time we do the same thing with food date labels,” Sara Elnakib of the Rutgers Cooperative Extension.
“Food waste continues to be one of the most pressing, yet solvable, challenges of our time. Academy members are uniquely positioned in communities across the country to influence consumer and institutional habits related to food safety and food waste. The Academy appreciates the leadership of U.S. Rep. Gottheimer for championing efforts to standardize date labeling for quality and safety across products and educate the public on the new system. This is a necessary step in addressing waste throughout the country’s entire food supply,” said Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics President Ellen R. Shanley.
“Better food labeling will reduce food waste and improve informed consumers choice. We applaud Congressman Gottheimer for leading on this important issue,” said CEO of Hunger Free America Joel Berg.
“New Jersey’s Community Colleges are committed to addressing food insecurity for their students and in their communities. To further this goal, the New Jersey Council of County Colleges supports Congressman Gottheimer’s efforts to reduce food waste by encouraging the FDA and the USDA to improve food labeling. We thank Congressman Gottheimer for his leadership on this important issue,” said New Jersey Council of County Colleges President Aaron Fichtner.
“According to the USDA, 31% of food from retail stores, restaurants, and homes goes uneaten, wasting valuable resources and worsening food security. Plate waste is also prevalent in schools, although the nutrition standards have helped reduce this issue. By implementing policies such as standardized food labels, funding school food waste audits and education, and providing guidance on school meal time duration, we can divert millions of tons from landfills and achieve significant financial benefits. We commend Congressman Gottheimer for highlighting the crucial role of labeling in addressing this matter,” said NEA Director and President of the Bergen County Education Association Sue McBride.
“Everyone has stood in front of their open fridge and been confronted with the decision on whether to eat or toss food because of a date on its packing. Right now, we have an opportunity to address one of the leading drivers of food waste in this country – confusion around food date labels – through the bipartisan Food Date Labeling Act. It is a straightforward, common-sense solution that will keep more money in people’s pockets and food on people’s plates, and this is the year we must get it done,” said Natural Resources Defense Council Director of Food Waste Yvette Cabrera.
Gottheimer was joined by Stew Leonard’s President and CEO Stew Leonard, Jr., Rutgers Climate Institute’s Sara Elnakib, New Jersey Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ April Milevski, Bergen County Commissioner Tracy Zur, Bergen County Commissioner Germaine Oritz, and Bergen County Commissioner Rafael Marte.