Use-By and Sell-By Dates
More than 90% of Americans throw out food prematurely, and 40% of the U.S. food supply is tossed out unused every year because of food dating.
This is stunning, and unbelievably wasteful…
The following information sourced from TIME.com contains important information for the prepper, and anyone who is confused about what these dates really mean…
Use-by dates are contributing to millions of pounds of wasted food each year.
A new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council and Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic says Americans are prematurely throwing out food, largely because of confusion over what expiration dates actually mean.
Most consumers mistakenly believe that expiration dates on food indicate how safe the food is to consume, when these dates actually aren’t related to the risk of food poisoning or foodborne illness.
The dates solely indicate freshness, and are used by manufacturers to convey when the product is at its peak. That means the food does not expire in the sense of becoming inedible.
For un-refrigerated foods, there may be no difference in taste or quality, and expired foods won’t necessarily make people sick.
But according to the new analysis, words like “use by” and “sell by” are used so inconsistently that they contribute to widespread misinterpretation — and waste — by consumers. More than 90% of Americans throw out food prematurely, and 40% of the U.S. food supply is tossed–unused–every year because of food dating.
Eggs, for example, can be consumed three to five weeks after purchase, even though the “use by” date is much earlier. A box of mac-and-cheese stamped with a “use by” date of March 2013 can still be enjoyed on March 2014, most likely with no noticeable changes in quality.
Because food dating was never about public health, there is no national regulation over the use of the dates. The only federally required and regulated food dating involves infant formula, since the nutrients in formula lose their potency as time goes on.
What regulation does exist occurs at the state level — and all but nine states in the United States have food dating rules but these vary widely.
“What’s resulted from [the FDA letting states come up with regulation] is really a patchwork of all sorts of different rules for different products and regulations around them,”
“Sometimes a product needs a date, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes a product cannot be sold after a different date. Or there is no requirement at all. Even with different categories there is so much variability.”
-Dana Gunders, staff scientist with the NRDC
The result is a confused public — and tons of wasted food.
Use by and Best by
These dates are intended for consumer use, but are typically the date the manufacturer deems the product reaches peak freshness.
It’s not a date to indicate spoilage, nor does it necessarily signal that the food is no longer safe to eat.
This date is only intended to help manufacturers and retailers, not consumers.
It’s a stocking and marketing tool provided by food makers to ensure proper turnover of the products in the store so they still have a long shelf life after consumers buy them. Consumers, however, are misinterpreting it as a date to guide their buying decisions. The report authors say that “sell by” dates should be made invisible to the consumer.