What Do “Best By” and “Sell By” Dates Really Mean?
Wow, we waste a LOT of food. A tragic amount, up to 40% of food in the U.S. is never eaten. A lot of the food thrown away is based on "sell by" dates, because we think it's an indication of food safety. But is it really? With 1 in 6 Americans being food insecure, it's a question worth looking into. The waste isn't only coming from our home refrigerators, but also at the store level. Part of the waste is because store employees don't understand the dates, and use them to judge when food should be thrown out. Think about all of the other natural resources that are thrown away with the food: the water, soil and packaging associated with it! The system for determining and setting these dates is also not standardized, so we can't rely on them. Food being properly refrigerated and stored plays a much bigger role in food safety than the arbitrary dates put on them.
- Using "freeze by" dates more frequently could cut down on waste.
- Dates that are intended only for manufacturers and retailers should be invisible to consumers.
- The system should be standardized.
- Changing wording to "Peak Quality of Freshness", or "Guaranteed Before" dates that clearly are not set-in-stone expiration dates.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a page that does a good job of explaining how long foods will last.
Don't just throw away food based on the random dates printed on their packaging. Give everything the smell and color test before tossing them!
Best if enjoyed by 16 Oct 2036.