The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has endorsed on a single label to be used on shelf-stable, packaged foods after a two-year effort by industry officials and advocacy groups.

"Best if used by" has been designated as the preferred description. The decision will aid consumers, who are currently faced with more than 50 variations of the label, ranging from "use before" to "sell by" and "expiry date". Such inconsistency makes it difficult for consumers to know whether their food is safe, and contributes heavily to food waste, of which the US produces 133 billion pounds a year at an estimated cost of USD$161 billion.

The wording was reached after extensive market research. "Consumers overwhelmingly chose ‘best if used by,'” said Frank Yiannas, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for food policy and response.

The suggested labelling is not binding, however, and producers still have the choice as to whether to label their food with a date or not.