According to a survey by the Food Marketing Institute, 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.
Related: Long Term Food Storage
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.”
In 2012, one national study estimated that 40 percent of the country’s food supply goes uneaten. The cost of that wasted food is about $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.
Types of FOOD dating
There are three types of dates on a food that is purchased. If the package says “Sell By,” be sure to purchase the food before the date listed. The “sell by” date tells the grocer how long to display the food. The food should remain good for a period of time once you get it home.
The “Best if Used By” is not a purchase or safety date. The date stamped after that term is the date the food should be used by for best flavor or quality. A “Use-By” date is the last date recommended for peak quality of the product.
All three terms are guides to help a purchaser determine the quality of the food. The food can be safe and of good quality after any of the three above open-dating terms are used.
This Infographic below explains a bit more: