Does Food Dating Contribute to Food Waste?

Dating Labels on Food Cans

Learning the truth about food dating could save you money as you prepare your grocery list. Research studies indicate that as much as 40% of the food distributed in the United States is never eaten. Consumer analysts are starting to criticize the lack of standardization for Food Dating labels ("Best By", "Sell By" or "Use Before") as a major culprit for the astonishing level of waste.

History of Food Dating Labels

In the 1970s, there was a greater consumer demand for wanting to know how fresh the food was when it left the grocery stores. However, you might think it was attributed to greater public health and safety. It wasn’t. Since setting expiration dates is not a practice started for the protection of consumers, the government doesn’t regulate it. To make matters worse, the wording of Food Dating Labels vary by location and most are simply used for managing an establishment's inventory being displayed on store shelves.

Food Freshness Facts

The “sell by” date on eggs, meat, cheese, yogurt and other refrigerated products does not indicate when the item will spoil. Instead, it provides a peak freshness time and gives the last date as to when a supermarket should replace products on their shelves.

Listed below are some additional truths about dates on food packages:

  • The food expiration date doesn’t necessarily indicate risk of sickness.
  • Food sold past the due date will not automatically lead to food poisoning.
  • Dry packaged and canned foods can still taste fine after expiration.
  • Eggs last up to 5 weeks past the “sell by” date on the carton.
  • Hard cheeses last 2 to 4 months past the store's expiration date.
  • Keeping your milk at between 38-40 degrees extends its life at least a few days.
  • Salmonella cases usually occur from mishandling or not cooking food hot enough – not because of a store sale due date.

Empower Yourself and Save Money

You can stretch your grocery dollar by holding food longer and consuming it past the "Best Before" date stamped on the container. Additionally, by properly storing canned goods and frozen products, most "freshness dates" can be exceeded. However, always use good judgment and never consume something that you believe is no longer good. Hopefully, these tips will help free up money for other needs such as metabolism-boosting shakes or on-the-go energy bars. To learn more about the right balance of real food and healthy snacks to eat while managing your menu plan, contact Metabolic Research Center.


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