About that date

June 17, 2021 Updated: January 24, 2024

Here’s some date-labeling guidance for Lovin’ Spoonfuls’ non-profit partners.

Let’s talk about that date. The one on your food. The one that indicates things like “use by,” “best before,” “sell by,” “enjoy by,” and “expires on.”

Consumers routinely misunderstand what date labels mean. They mistake safe, wholesome food for something that has “gone bad” because it’s closing in on (or past) the date on food packaging. This, in turn, leads to waste.

But most date labels are actually just the manufacturer’s recommendation about when a food is at peak quality and freshness. They’re not a reflection of food safety. No link has been shown between foodborne illness and consuming food past its best-by date.

Every food program (and each person) will have a different comfort level with consuming past-dated products, so it’s important to keep that line of communication open with guests (and with us) about what end users are looking for. If your program isn’t able to distribute product at or past its best-by date, or if you’re receiving any food from us that you’re not able to use, we want to know. That feedback is important because the food you can’t use, another program might. Plus, we’re able to keep an eye out for more of what your guests can use and enjoy!

To learn more about date labeling, see here. You can draw from any of these resources in training staff, volunteers, and guests on what to look for!

Plus, check out these resources compiled by the non-profit, ReFED:
Massachusetts Food Waste Policy (Date Labeling)
Federal Liability Protection for Donating Past-Dated Food.

Donate Need Food?