Americans toss out 40 percent of food over label confusion

Confusion about expiration dates on foods has become an expensive problem, leading to millions of pounds of perfectly good products going to waste.

 According to a new study from Harvard University and the National Resources Defense Council, misconceptions about food labels lead to about 40 percent of the nation’s food supply being unused. (Via KHOU)

KSDK reports nearly 90 percent of Americans might be throwing out food early because they think it could be unsafe or has gone bad — costing the average family of four more than $1,300 a year.

One of the main reasons — confusion about what the expiration dates on foods like milk and yogurt really mean. Many people are throwing foods out once they hit those dates.

KTVI notes many foods are still good to eat for about a week after their labeled expiration dates. And as Time reports, many other foods stay safe to eat after even longer.

“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.”

Specifically, expiration dates don’t mean food is rotten or inedible. The study shows those dates actually tell us when food has passed its “peak freshness.” (Via Fox News)

The National Resources Defense Council, which did the study with Harvard’s Food Law and Policy Clinic, recommends the label system undergo a bit of a facelift because the dates on labels often confuse consumers.

Many people don’t realize the difference between “sell by” and “best by” dates. Federal guidelines are already in place for food labels, but dozens of states have their own rules which leads to inconsistencies nationwide.

The study shows that if foods looks or smells bad then you should obviously throw it away, but it doesn’t hurt to eat it a couple days after the labeled “best by” date.

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