Understanding the association between date labels and consumer-level food waste

Ziyang Gong, Leona Yi Fan Su, Jennifer Shiyue Zhang, Tianli Chen, Yi Cheng Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Waste resulting from consumers’ confusion about foods’ date labels is a multi-billion-dollar problem in the United States. The present study examines the mechanisms underlying such labels’ influence on people's willingness to consume, and whether exposure to additional information regarding sensory assessment of food products or storage practices could help to reduce food waste. We conducted a mixed-design experiment in which the between-subjects variable comprised five commonly used food date labels (i.e., “Best if Used By”, “Use By”, “Sell By”, “Enjoy By”, and a date without any explanatory phrase), and the within-subjects variable consisted of three information conditions (i.e., basic information, sensory information, and food-storage information). Our data indicate that date labels affected consumers’ willingness to eat yogurt through two mediators, quality concerns and safety concerns. The direct effects on willingness to consume of variation in date-label wording were non-significant after controlling for the two mediators. Additionally, when the participants were told that the yogurt had a normal color and odor, or that it had been stored in accordance with best practices, their intention to eat it rose significantly. These findings enhance our understanding of how food date labels affect consumer-level food waste, and provide insights that can aid the development of educational campaigns to reduce it.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104373
JournalFood Quality and Preference
StatePublished - Mar 2022


  • Date labels
  • Food quality
  • Food safety
  • Food storage
  • Food waste
  • Sensory assessment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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