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Food Expiration Labels ?X%#$

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Touch the Soil News #574

When looking at a package of food it can say:

  1. Best by 1/15/2017
  2. Best if used by 1/15/2017
  3. Sell by 1/15/2017

 

Come to find out, hardly anyone knows what they mean. Amidst this confusion, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service decided to bring some clarity to the confusion regarding understanding expiration dates on food.

What kind of clarification do you think the USDA – with oversight on the nation’s food safety – might provide? Get ready for this one. After the nation’s top food minds put their thinking caps on, they are recommending that manufacturers and distributors of food use this wording: BEST IF USED BY.

What does BEST IF USED BY mean? In a rather cryptic explanation, the USDA says that these terms should make it clear to consumers that the expiration date has more to do with “quality” rather than “safety.” Well which is it?

The confusion over food expiration labels is a major driver of food waste and loss. Estimates are that the average American wastes $800 worth of food every year. That’s $67 per month of additional food purchases – that nationally total $260 billion a year (17 percent of all food purchases). Seems grocers and food manufacturers have an incentive for maintaining confusion.

Following is a short video clip on food expiration dates that, while providing more information, illustrates the problem:

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