Report: Dating On Food Labels Leads To Food Waste

5:16 PM, Sep 24, 2013   |    comments
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UNDATED -- When you look in your fridge or in your cabinets, how do you know what's safe to eat and what's not? You probably check the labels: 'Sell by,' 'Use by,' 'Best before'. But what if those dates have nothing to do with the safety of the food. That's according to a new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic.


They say some those dates are really meant for the businesses, not the consumer. Of the labels directed to consumers, they're not necessarily related to the food's safety --  but the food quality.

For example, the "sell by" date is one of those business labels. It's the manufacturer's suggestion for when the grocery store should no longer sell the product. It helps stores with their stock rotation.

So which labels are for the consumers? 'Best if used by' or the 'best by' date is the manufacturer's estimate of when food will no longer be at its highest quality. The 'use by' date is typically a manufacturer's estimate of the last date recommended for the product use while at peak quality. That doesn't mean it's not safe to eat after that date. It just means it won't be at the highest quality.

The only food label that's really regulated is infant formula. That's because the nutrients decline over time, not out of concern for foodborne illness.

The report says because many people go by the dates on these labels and throw food away once they pass these dates, an untold amount of food is being wasted in the United States.

WFMY News 2/NRDC - Harvard Food Law & Policy Clinic

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