Sen. Rachel Ventura

SPRINGFIELD – To promote standardization on food labels and reduce food waste across the state, State Senator Rachel Ventura sponsored House Bill 3849 which was signed into law today.

“By providing more guidance on food labels, we can reduce the amount of food ending up in the garbage and help feed more community members struggling to get by,” said Ventura (D-Joliet). “As inflation continues to impact the rising cost of grocery bills, some families might extend the shelf life of their food purchases.”

According to ReFED, a national nonprofit working in conjunction with Harvard Law School's Food Law and Policy Clinic, a national food labeling standard could divert 582,000 tons of food waste per year and provide $2.41 billion in annual economic value. Illinois does not currently have any food labeling laws; however, if labeled, eggs cannot be sold past the label date.

House Bill 3849 defines "quality date," "safety date" and "sell by date" and requires the Illinois Departments of Agriculture and Public Health to publish information to encourage food manufacturers, processors and retailers to voluntarily use uniform terms on food product labels to communicate quality and safety dates.

Under the law, the definition of "quality date" means a date on a label which informs consumers the date after which the food quality may begin to deteriorate but the food may still be acceptable for consumption.

"Safety date" means a date when the food should be consumed or frozen by the date listed on the package that applies to perishable products with potential safety implications over time. Lastly, "sell by date" means a date which is intended to communicate primarily to a distributor or retailer for purposes of stock rotation.

“This will provide accurate information for consumers about their food and help clear up confusion surrounding expiration dates,” said Ventura. “Not only will this legislation help with food waste, but it will also alleviate food insecurities in some communities.”

House Bill 3849 was signed into law today and goes into effect Jan. 1, 2024.