SELL by; use by; best by; expires on. American food products display a range of authoritative-sounding labels that are often inconsistently applied and confusing. Many people think expiration labels are federally regulated. In fact, they are decided upon at the state level or by manufacturers themselves—and they often cause consumers to throw away perfectly good food.
A new law could change that.The Food Labelling Act, which was introduced on May 18th, would ensure that “Best if used by” meant that food was still safe, if not at its most fresh, while “Expires on” (used on packets of raw meat and fish, say) would indicate just that. The bill’s proponents say that a national system of labelling, requiring manufacturers to use the same terms consistently, would reduce confusion and waste.