Do you ever throw away food when you notice it’s past the expiration date? If you do, you’re contributing to the millions of pounds of food wasted each year. According to People, “Americans toss an average of 36 lbs. of food a month.” In fact, 40% of the food we produce in the United States gets thrown away, which is mind boggling. So, what’s the deal with food expiration dates and why are people throwing out so much food?
There are three common dates usually seen on food packaging: best by, sell by and use by. To break it down, “best by” and “use by” are for consumers and usually indicate the date that food has reached its peak freshness. It doesn’t mean the food has spoiled and you need to throw it in the garbage. As for “sell by” dates, those are for manufacturers and retailers only. “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,” according to CNN.
Many foods can be used weeks and even months after their “use by” date. Eggs, for instance, can be eaten three to five weeks after purchase and items that are boxed or canned can last for another 12 to 18 months past their “use by” date! The only food that is federally regulated in terms of dating labels is baby formula.
To help with this food wasting epidemic, there are multiple resources to turn to when it comes to food expiration dates. There’s a really helpful and easy-to-navigate website called Eat By Date that educates consumers about a food’s shelf life and expiration dates. You can also download the app called FoodKeeper that was created in association with Food Marketing Institute, Cornell University’s Department of Food Science, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help customers maintain the freshness of their food.
Think twice before you throw away your “expired” food.