Time magazine article on dating
(MORE: Bad Food: Illnesses from Imported Foods Are on the Rise, CDC Says) Correcting these entrenched misconceptions, however, won’t be easy.
The report authors say the re-education could start with a clearer understanding of what the dates mean.
Food dating emerged in the 1970s, prompted by consumer demand as Americans produced less of their own food but still demanded information about how it was made.
The dates solely indicate freshness, and are used by manufacturers to convey when the product is at its peak.
“We are fine with there being quality or freshness dates as long as it is clearly communicated to consumers, and they are educated about what that means,” says study co- author Emily Broad Leib, the director of Harvard Food Law & Policy Clinic.
“There should be a standard date and wording that is used. You can make your own decision about whether a food still has an edible quality that’s acceptable to you.” (MORE: Is It Worth Buying Organic?
(MORE: Food Safety: CDC Report Shows Rates of Foodborne Illnesses Remain Largely Unchanged) Eggs, for example, can be consumed three to five weeks after purchase, even though the “use by” date is much earlier.
“It’s a confusing subject, the difference between food quality and food safety.A new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic says Americans are prematurely throwing out food, largely because of confusion over what expiration dates actually mean.Most consumers mistakenly believe that expiration dates on food indicate how safe the food is to consume, when these dates actually aren’t related to the risk of food poisoning or foodborne illness.But according to the new analysis, words like “use by” and “sell by” are used so inconsistently that they contribute to widespread misinterpretation — and waste — by consumers.More than 90% of Americans throw out food prematurely, and 40% of the U. food supply is tossed–unused–every year because of food dating.
Jena Roberts, vice president for business development at the food testing firm, National Food Lab, studies “shelf-stable” properties of foods to help manufacturers determine what date indicates when their products are at their best.