Wait, Don’t Toss that Milk or Cheese Just Yet! Check Out These Expiration Date Myths…
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Don’t throw it out yet!
We’ve all grown accustomed to checking the dates on our food products and if you’re like most people, you toss them away if the date has passed. This can lead to food waste which in turn leads to wasted money!
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Some shocking stats about food waste and expiration dates.:
- Americans toss out about $161 billion worth of food each year according to NPR.
- 20% of that food waste is attributed to confusing date labels on food packaging and is likely still good to eat!
- Expiration date labels are not regulated or standard practice.
The 3 major labels are “Sell By”, “Use By”, and “Best If Used By”, all of which have not been regulated by the FDA with the exception of baby formula. Typically, these all refer to how fresh a product will be and are meant to predict when the freshness or quality of a product will start to depreciate, not safe consumption.
So which label should we listen to?
To avoid confusion, the FDA has since released a letter to the food industry asking for an industry-wide movement to adopt “Best If Used By” when labeling for date-based quality on food products. This was chosen as it best expresses peak quality rather than unsafe consumption.
While trying to set a uniform lingo for product dates, using the label is a voluntary process so producers don’t necessarily have to abide by these labeling standards. Until there’s a strict labeling policy in place, it’s best to use these dates as a guideline but not a hard-and-fast exact date to trash your food.
Here are some methods for checking food quality beyond its label date:
Use your senses.
Since there is no exact science to predicting food quality, Kevin Smith of the FDA recommends checking whether products have changed noticeably in color, consistency, or texture if you’re unsure if food is still safe to eat after the label date. If there is an apparent change, avoid eating that product.
Check the Food Keeper App.
Developed by the FDA, the Food Keeper app is designed to help you quickly look for consumption time frames and storage guidelines for a variety of foods along with accessing recall information, educational videos, and submitting food safety questions.
Similarly, you can check sites like StillTasty which allow you to search for virtually any food product and their corresponding pantry, fridge, and freezer storage timelines. They also share storage tips and helpful insight for checking the freshness of food.
Stick this chart in your kitchen.
Don’t be bothered with reaching for your phone or computer anytime you’re questioning how long a specific food product typically lasts. The Food Facts guide from the FDA has a helpful page at the end with time frames of how long you can store common foods in the refrigerator and freezer. Print it out and keep it handy in your kitchen!
There are so many more ways to avoid waste and save more at the grocery store.
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