User friendly food-date labeling system can cut waste

eat or freeze by use by dateTwilight Greenaway writes in Civil Eats about the food waste being caused by a broken US food labeling system that is inconsistent and misunderstood. She examines solutions proposed in The Dating Game, a new report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic. NRDC has already been “getting the word out about food waste” and “confusing expiration dates” for years now.

No matter how many times we’re reminded that 40 percent of the food we produce in the U.S. goes to waste, it still manages to be a pretty shocking number…

According to Dana Gunders, NRDC’s resident food waste expert, the date labeling system in the U.S. is “not a system at all.” Instead, she says: “It’s like the Wild West. Laws vary across states and, for most labels on a vast majority of products, the manufacturers choose whether to have a date at all, which kind to apply, what they interpret that label to mean, and how to determine when to set that date.”

The result? People are throwing away food on those dates because they believe it’s no longer safe to eat — up to 90 percent of us. And, conversely, we might be eating unsafe food because we’re placing more trust in those dates than we should.

One thought on “User friendly food-date labeling system can cut waste”

  1. For most foods, I simply use the “sniff test”. It might not work on everything—for instance, bad yogurt is harder to sniff out than bad milk—but for most, it is fine. Also, some foods starting to go bad can sometimes be safely thrown into a soup pot. It really bothers me sometimes that people want to have instructions for what I think used to be common-sense situations that were figured out individually. However, there is nothing wrong with a simple uniform “use by” label; let’s make it easy!

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