Impact of Messaging Strategy on Consumer Understanding of Food Date Labels

Catherine Turvey, Meghan Moran, Jennifer Sacheck, Ashley Arashiro, Qiushi Huang, Katie Heley, Erica Johnston, Roni Neff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Explore consumer understanding of the food industry's 2-date labeling system and the relative effectiveness of messages in increasing understanding. Design: Participant understanding of date labels assessed before and after random assignment to 1 of 7 messages explaining the meaning of the labels. Setting: US online survey through Amazon Mechanical Turk collected responses from July 29, 2019, to August 5, 2019. Participants: Adults aged 18 years or older who speak English (n = 2,607). Intervention: Seven message variations. Variables Measured: Behaviors, awareness, and understanding of date labeling, and effectiveness of messages and opportunities for improving them. Analysis: Pearson's chi-square test of independence, Wald chi-square test of association, McNemar's test of marginal homogeneity, and logistic regression. Results: The majority of respondents use date labels to make decisions and believe they know what the labels mean; however, only 64.0% and 44.8% knew the general meaning of the Best If Used By and Use By labels, respectively. Even fewer understood their specific meanings. Overall, education increased general understanding to 82.0% for Best If Used By and 82.4% for Use By (P < 0.001). The effectiveness of the educational message did not vary significantly by message variation. Conclusions and Implications: Consumer education is needed to improve understanding of the 2-date labeling system, ultimately improving food safety and decreasing wasted food. This study highlights opportunities for effective educational communication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)389-400
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Nutrition Education and Behavior
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021


  • date labels
  • educational messaging
  • food quality
  • food safety
  • food waste

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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