Wednesday, September 10, 2014

How Confusing Food Date Labels Lead to Food Waste in America

Here's a superbly-kept secret: All those dates on food products -- sell by, use by, best before -- almost none of those dates indicate the safety of food, and generally speaking, they're not regulated in the way many people believe. The current system of expiration dates misleads consumers to believe they must discard food in order to protect their own safety. In fact, the dates are only suggestions by the manufacturer for when the food is at its peak quality, not when it is unsafe to eat.

U.S. consumers and businesses needlessly trash billions of pounds of food every year as a result of America's dizzying array of food expiration date labeling practices, which need to be standardized and clarified. Forty percent of the food we produce in this country never gets eaten. That's nearly half our food, wasted -- not just on our plates, but in our refrigerators and pantries, in our grocery stores and on our farms. Much of it perfectly good, edible food -- worth $165 billion annually -- gets tossed in the trash instead feeding someone who's hungry. Misinterpretation of date labels is one of the key factors contributing to this waste.

See more from National Resources Defense Council, and read the full report. From that report:

According to our 50-state research, 41 states plus the District of Columbia require date labels on at least some food items, whereas nine states do not require them on any foods. For example, New York does not require date labels to be applied to any products, while all six of its neighboring states—New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Rhode Island—have such requirements.

Also check out and the USDA.

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