Mar 20 2016

Product Label Use by dates, what do they really mean?

Published by at 12:26 pm under General

Use by dates…what do they really mean?
Confusion over the “Use by” stamp is a large problem behind food waste in our country.

 

Over the last couple of weeks we have looked at the tremendous amount of food waste that occurs in our country and around the world. It is a problem that is exacerbated by many layers of bureaucracy, red tape, ignorance, honest mistakes and greed. The good news, as we mentioned last week, is there is lots of room for improvement and many food aid organizations, governments, consumers and manufacturers are waking up to this world wide problem and looking for solutions.

One reason for a lot of consumer food waste is a misunderstanding about the “use by” date, “sell by” date and “best before” dates found stamped on the foods we purchase. How often have you thrown something away after noticing the date has expired, even though it hadn’t been opened, or been given the proper taste or smell test. It is thought that this is one of the main reasons we throw away so much food in our country, because we think food is already bad, when it could very well be perfectly good!

Did you know…

With the exception of baby food and infant formula, the FDA does not require food manufacturers to place dates on their food products? They only require that the food is wholesome and fit for consumption.1*
Laws requiring food dating varies by state. While some states require milk and other perishables be sold before the expiration date, others don’t have the same regulations. 1*

 Legally, grocery stores do not have to take food off the shelf once the expiration date has passed.  The expiration dates are not truly indicative of an item’s true shelf life. It is left to the discretion of the manufacturer and is strictly there for “advisory” purposes.1*

So what does the use by date mean anyway? “…The “Use By Date” is the last day that the manufacturer vouches for the product’s quality. The use by date is the date the manufacturer recommends that the consumer use their product for “peak quality” in the food…” So food after the use by date, may not be at its peak quality or freshness, but it is still perfectly edible, and most likely tastes fine. 1*

For example, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, milk is most likely good for up to at least a week after the printed date. And according to the USDA, eggs may be good for three to five weeks after the sell by date expires. Some canned goods if left unopened, including soup and green beans, can last up to 5 years. The exception is if you notice a can or jarred food is leaking, bulging or swollen, or looks abnormal in appearance, spurts liquid or foam when opened, or is discolored, moldy or smells bad. This could be a sign that the food is contaminated with botulism, a deadly bacteria, in which case the food item should be safely discarded. (2,3,4)*

Yogurt is another example. It usually lasts at least 7 days past its “sell by” date, which once again is the last date which the manufacturer will vouch for its quality, not its safety. Yogurt lasts for a shorter period of time if it is not stored properly. But remember, like a lot of other dairy products, it usually has a “sell by” date which is simply the last date until which a manufacturer will vouch for a product’s quality, not its safety. Just remember, so much of deciding whether your food is still good requires some good old fashion common sense. 3*

If all of us would curtail our food waste by just 15 percent, it is estimated that we could feed 25 million more people in our country each year. Pledge to pay attention to what you buy and how much you are throw away, as a result of “use by” dates or otherwise, and reduce the amount of food that goes from your refrigerator into the trash. If you find you are not using food by its “use by” date, start making less trips to the store, or minimize your purchases when you do go. Freeze food that you may not use right away. Bread, yogurt and meats all freeze well. Do a daily inventory of your refrigerator and bring the older items from the back to the front, and find a recipe for those items that may be getting closer to expiring. Soups are always a good place to start. 5*

We talked about other ways you can reduce your food waste in the previous posts and what people are doing around the world to find solutions to this epidemic. Let’s start now to do our part so that our food doesn’t continue to go in the landfills when there are hungry tummies in our world. Proper nutrition is essential for all of us to stay healthy.

Healthiest wishes,

Kelli

 

www.bodybiotics.com

 

 

Resources:

  1. http://www.eatbydate.com/use-by-date-definition/
  2. http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/food-label-confusion-best-sell-dont-expert/story?id=25878053
  3. http://www.eatbydate.com/dairy/yogurt-shelf-life-expiration-date/
  4. http://www.cdc.gov/nczved/divisions/dfbmd/diseases/botulism/consumers.html
  5. http://www.huffingtonpost.comp/2013/01/03/food-waste-america_n_2404451.html

 

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