On May 23, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a letter to the food industry “strongly support[ing]” the use of “Best If Used By” labeling to describe the date when a food will be at its best flavor and quality. FDA believes that standardizing the use of date labels for quality reasons will be one helpful step in reducing food waste. Importantly, date labeling is generally not required at the federal level other than for infant formula. It is, however, required by some states. The FDA guidance indicates that when date labeling is used for quality reasons, the recommended introductory phrase is “Best If Used By” – the same phrase recommended by a voluntary industry labeling initiative spearheaded by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and the Food Marketing Institute (FMI).

The letter starts by noting that approximately 30 percent of food is lost or wasted at the retail and consumer level, amounting to approximately 133 billion pounds of food worth $161 billion each year. FDA has found that food waste by consumers can result from fears about food safety caused by misunderstanding around what the introductory phrases on product date labels mean (e.g., “Best If Used by,” “Use By,” and “Sell By”), along with uncertainty about the storage of perishable foods. The agency cites a source estimating that confusion over date labeling accounts for approximately 20 percent of consumer food waste.

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Photo of Joe Levitt Joe Levitt

Partner, Washington, DC

As the FDA’s former top food regulator, Joe Levitt brings a true insider’s knowledge to helping food industry clients deal effectively with the FDA. Whether influencing policy making or confronting a threatened compliance action, Joe’s 25 years of FDA experience puts clients in the best position to succeed.  In the private sector, Joe was on the ground floor when Congress developed the landmark FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Joe was also a leading voice for the food industry when the FDA developed regulations that all food companies must now follow. No one can help navigate the labyrinth of FDA’s FSMA regulations better than Joe and his team, and no one can better put your company in the driver’s seat when the FDA inspector knocks on your door for your first FSMA inspection.

Joe adeptly handles high visibility recalls and compliance actions. If a company finds itself in trouble with the FDA, they need someone with a deep insider’s understanding of what works and what doesn’t. Joe knows what the agency expects in the compliance arena, and the bar clients will be expected to meet. He can communicate his client’s position calmly and effectively to the FDA so the matter gets put behind them. His record of “helping startups and multinational companies… survive Food and Drug Administration investigations and avoid import bans that could shutter the companies,” led to Joe being named a Law360 Food & Beverage MVP (2016).

Joe is among the most decorated officials in FDA history, with his achievements being recognized by multiple U.S. presidents, cabinet secretaries, and FDA Commissioners. He maintains close working relationships with senior FDA officials and has served as the Board Chair of the FDA Alumni Association.

Photo of Veronica Colas Veronica Colas

Senior Associate, Washington, DC

Veronica Colas counsels clients on the regulations and policy issues affecting food companies from farm to table. She represents all segments of the food industry, including manufacturers, retailers, restaurants, and food service companies, as well as their trade associations.
Veronica provides clear advice and practical solutions for compliance with labeling, advertising, and safety regulations from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Consumer Product Safety Commission.

A core part of Veronica’s practice is helping clients develop new products, label claims, advertising materials, and promotional campaigns, with a keen awareness of today’s litigation environment. She has a deep understanding of both current and forthcoming food labeling and production requirements, from nutrition and menu labeling, to the regulatory issues surrounding genetically engineered foods and organic food production.

Veronica also has significant experience in helping clients navigate regulatory enforcement challenges, such as Warning Letters, import detentions, and investigations by the Federal Trade Commission, Department of Justice, Congress, and state Attorneys General. She works closely with trade associations and food companies to craft comments and develop strategies in response to agency rulemaking and other public policy issues. She is a frequent speaker and contributor to industry publications.