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90 percent of Consumers confused by 'use by' dates

usa misinterpreted best before costing billions food law and policy clinic misleading expiration food industry

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#1 Hum

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Posted 19 September 2013 - 14:59

Ninety percent of Americans say they've prematurely discarded food because they misinterpreted the "sell by," "use by" and "best before" dates on products, and the confusion is costing consumers billions, a new study finds.

According to the study, conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic, many Americans incorrectly assume the date stamped on packaged food indicates when it will go bad instead of what it really is — a suggestion by the manufacturer of peak freshness.

The current system of expiration dates is misleading, the researchers say.

“Expiration dates are in need of some serious myth-busting because they’re leading us to waste money and throw out perfectly good food, along with all of the resources that went into growing it,” Dana Gunders, an NRDC staff scientist, told the Los Angeles Times. “Phrases like ‘sell by,’ ’use by,’ and ‘best before’ are poorly regulated, misinterpreted and leading to a false confidence in food safety.”

According to a survey by the Food Marketing Institute cited by researchers, such confusion leads nine out of 10 Americans to needlessly throw away food. The survey found 90 percent of Americans "at least occasionally throw food away prematurely because they mistakenly interpret the date label to mean their food is unsafe" — and 25 percent say they always discard food on or before that date.

The researchers blame "a lack of binding federal standards, and the resultant state and local variability in date labeling rules" for the inconsistency in date-labeling practices, "including whether manufacturers affix a date label in the first place, how they choose which label phrase to apply, varying meanings for the same phrase, and the wide range of methods by which the date on a product is determined."

In other words, "it's a mess," Gunders wrote in a post announcing the report. "And that mess is leading to a whole lot of perfectly good food going to waste."

In 2012, an NRDC study found as much as 40 percent of the country’s food supply goes uneaten. The cost of that wasted food? Roughly $165 billion, including $900 million in "expired" food. A family of four, the study found, spends an average of $455 a year on food it doesn't eat.

The researchers recommend making "sell by" dates invisible to the consumer, and have the food industry establish a standard, uniform labeling system.

In the meantime, consumers should educate themselves about food safety and "demystify your refrigerator."

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#2 ensiform

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Posted 19 September 2013 - 15:06

And then you have things like chopped bagged salads which have the dates on them but once you open the bag you only have 2-4 days before they start to go bad regardless of the date on the bag.



#3 theyarecomingforyou

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Posted 19 September 2013 - 15:26

And then you have things like chopped bagged salads which have the dates on them but once you open the bag you only have 2-4 days before they start to go bad regardless of the date on the bag.

What do you expect though? I mean, it clearly states on the packaging how long you should keep it after opening.



#4 spacer

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Posted 19 September 2013 - 15:29

There are a lot of issues with the food industry here. There are no regulations, half-regulations, and inconsistencies everywhere in the grocery store. It really does need a complete overhaul. Though, consumer education is always a good thing too.



#5 Growled

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Posted 19 September 2013 - 15:31

 

Ninety percent of Americans say they've prematurely discarded food because they misinterpreted the "sell by," "use by" and "best before" dates on products, and the confusion is costing consumers billions, a new study finds.

 

How can they make that any clearer?



#6 OP Hum

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Posted 19 September 2013 - 15:34

If it doesn't smell and is not green, I eat it. :p



#7 Growled

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Posted 19 September 2013 - 15:55

If it doesn't smell and is not green, I eat it. :p

 

Same here. :D



#8 ensiform

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Posted 19 September 2013 - 16:09

What do you expect though? I mean, it clearly states on the packaging how long you should keep it after opening.

Oh I know, I work in the Produce (Fruits / Veggies) department.



#9 ensiform

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Posted 19 September 2013 - 16:11

How can they make that any clearer?

I assume because Best Before is unclear as in best if sold before or best if consumed before.

 

And then, how long will it actually last at your home after the "Sell By" date.  Sell by just means don't leave it on the store shelves until then.  (Typically not fresh stuff)



#10 Xerino

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Posted 19 September 2013 - 16:17

Whats not to understand, the "Sell by" dates merely recommend how much shelf life a food item has, even though non-perishable items can last much longer than the date specifies, Milk and other perishables however are only good for about a week before going bad, unless you freeze it.



#11 OP Hum

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Posted 19 September 2013 - 16:35

Odd how they give the homeless stuff past the sell-by date. :huh:



#12 Louisifer

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Posted 19 September 2013 - 16:42

It boggles my mind that so many people have problems with this:

 

The sell by date is for the company selling the item, *Sell by this date to allow customers a few days to eat it*, after this point product is usually discounted up until the use by/best before date.

 

The use by date is used by food items that have a consistent rate of spoiling from creating/packaging.

 

The best before date is used for items that have an varying rate of spoiling, these items can usually last much longer if sealed up after use like bread.

 

The golden rule for me is.. if it smells or looks funky its time to bin it :p



#13 +warwagon

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Posted 19 September 2013 - 16:50

I Just give it the sniff test and the visual inspection.

 

A friend of mine refused to use an "Hamburger helper" In a box that expired. All the box contains is noodles and seasoning. I really can't see how either could expire, regardless of the use by date! Have you ever seen a rotten uncooked noodle?



#14 Growled

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Posted 19 September 2013 - 16:59

Odd how they give the homeless stuff past the sell-by date. :huh:

 

You can go buy bread and pastries past the sell-by date at our local thrift store.