Confusing expiration dates leads to billions of dollars in was - | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

Confusing expiration dates leads to billions of dollars in wasted food

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Sell by, use by, best before...whatever.

It's pretty confusing language to most and nine times out of 10, people just throw food away once it gets past that date.

And yes...that's a real statistic. According to a survey by the Food Marketing Institute, nine out of 10 Americans needlessly throw food away because of confusion over dates.

Research from the Natural Resources Defense Council and Harvard says 40 percent of the food produced in America never gets eaten and that adds up to about $165 billion every year.

Registered Dietician Deirdre Earls, author of "Your Healing Diet" understands the confusion.

"My guess is that a lot of us have been confused for a long time about this and we've decided to just default to common sense which is 'Does it taste okay? Does it look okay? Does it have a funky texture? Does it smell alright," Earls said.

UT roomies Alexa Janda and Patricia O'Brien already do that.

"I'd say if it does reach the date, if it still smells alright, we just go ahead," Janda said.

The Natural Resources Defense Council says the dates are only suggestions by the manufacturer as to when the product is at its peak quality. So it really has nothing to do with how "good" the food still is.

"What's more important is food safety. And so I would much rather have something like 'safe by' or 'safe if eaten before.' And then use that same consistent language throughout across the United States so that when we travel around, we can have the same expectations. Because food contamination is something that can kill people," Earls said.

Much like Earls said, the Natural Resources Defense Council hopes that the "sell by" dates can somehow be made invisible to the shopper and then establish some standard, clear language for quality-based and safety-based date labels.

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