Congress May Pass Bill to Reduce Food Waste

The measure, which has broad bipartisan support, would introduce federal regulations to expiration dates on food packages
Best by

Wikimedia Commons / Bando26 / CC BY-SA 3.0

The bill would define and regulate terms like “sell by,” “use by,” and “best by.”

Food waste is such an important issue that it has done the near unthinkable: It has created bipartisan support in Congress for an actual bill. Thanks to a widely circulated 2009 study that found 40 percent of all food produced in America wasted, Congressional lawmakers want to do something about it.

Led by Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), an initiative to create uniform national standards for labels on perishable food that say “best by” or “expires on” is gaining steam in Congress. She was invited to testify before the House Agriculture Committee, and it seems that this legislation might actually be passed thanks to broad bipartisan support.

However, the committee chairman, Mike Conaway (R-Texas), did not put a timeline on considering Pingree’s proposals. He did note, however, that food waste was a problem that also needed to be solved with education—a nod to President Obama to instruct the populace has he has done previously on issues like coughing into your sleeve to prevent the spread of flu.

The labels that companies already put on perishable items—the sometimes difficult to find “best by,” “sell by,” or “use by” dates—currently have no federal regulation. Zero. There’s no general set of guidelines; rather, these companies arbitrarily choose a date to put on the packaging. Often, that date is before the actual expiration date, an effort to ensure consumers continue to buy the product.

The bill has a real chance of passing in an environment ripe for food change. Philadelphia passed a soda tax, and San Francisco is considering a similar measure. And it has tangible benefits to voters, too: The average family stands to save up to $1,500 per year if these changes are enacted.


If you want to help, sign this petition urging Congress to pass Rep. Pingree’s Food Recovery Act.