According to the Los Angeles Times, 40 percent of U.S. food is thrown away. Yes, you read that correctly.
Roughly 90 percent of Americans misread the “sell by,” “use by” and “best before” labels on food. This causes people to throw away perfectly healthy food just because of a simple mistake.
Other people simply hold on to the belief that the expiration dates are like laws set in stone. If food is even a day past the label, some people have a habit of just throwing the food away to clear their conscience instead of actually inspecting the food to make sure it is safe to eat or if it needs to be thrown away.
Food companies and grocery stores use these labels to help ensure the freshest products are available to customers. The various “best by,” “use by” and “sell by” labels are not meant to be concrete and customers shouldn’t view the dates as the final indicator of when food ceases to be fresh.
In nearly every case, a packaged food product will still be fresh and healthy to consume past the date labeled on the product.
Not only is throwing away perfectly fine food a waste of resources, it is also a huge burden economically. With Americans throwing away as much as 40 percent of the country’s food supply, that adds up to a whopping $165 billion in economic losses, according to the National Resources Defense Council.
In 2009, right here in Waco, 39 percent of residents lived below the poverty level. The poverty level has improved, with 28.7 percent of Waco residents living in poverty in 2012.
Imagine what an extra $165 billion could do to help the American economy and to help American communities.
It’s time to rethink how food products are labeled to minimize wasting the American food supply and needlessly throwing away food that so many Americans desperately need.
A total of $900 million of expired food is thrown away annually.
Misinterpreted or confusing date labels contribute to this waste. It’s time for a more reformed way of regulating expiration dates on food products.
Some of this confusion might simply come down to minute. Instead of using labels that suggest a definitive expiration date, using labels that say “safe until” a later date might be more useful than “best by” on an earlier date. A new, more innovative way of using food labels could help America to not be so wasteful of the food supply.
The Food and Drug Administration sets no precedent for expiration dates or “best by” dates. Instead, the FDA leaves the determination of these dates up to food companies and manufacturers. Perhaps a more regulated and uniform system could help restrict the waste of American food.
The FDA and manufacturers should work together to set up two standards on food.
Another solution could be a “best if used by” label on food, but then secondarily there should be an “expired on” label. This way, the consumer will know when their food is at peak freshness and when it is time to throw away an expired product.
It’s understandable that Americans throw away expired food, but throwing away food just because it is after a “best by” date is uneconomical and wasteful.
Instead of adhering to these dates as non-negotiable law, inspect your food and see if it is still safe to consume.
Give your food the eye test and smell test to make sure it is still fresh, safe and edible.
By using common sense, Americans can save food and money.
As one of the most privileged countries in the world, America needs to be a better steward of our many resources.
Americans can and should improve on limiting the incessant waste of the precious food supply.