To cut down on unnecessary waste, food safety experts say people need to know what expiration dates on packaged foods really mean.
The Food and Drug Administration sent a letter to the food industry back in May suggesting they clarify the meaning of dates printed on packaged foods.
That’s because many people are confused by what they mean, according to Bob Brackett, a food scientist with the Illinois Institute of Technology.
Speaking on The 21st, he said the dates usually refer to when products are freshest not when they become unsafe to eat.
“People throw perfectly good food away,” Brackett said. “And so what the FDA and the federal government is now encouraging is to have a standardized term called ‘Best if Used By’ date.”
If the date really means the food is no longer safe, the FDA says it should say “Use By” a certain date.
According to federal data, 133 billion pounds of food get thrown out in the U.S. every year. About a fifth of waste is due to confusion over expiration dates.
Brenna Ellison is a professor at the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.
To cut down on food waste, she recommends people plan out their meals and buy only what they need.
“In general, if you’re someone who buys a lot of fruits and vegetables and you can’t get through them all in a week, think about subbing in some frozen ones that you can keep in the freezer,” Ellison said. “If you can’t go through things like meat, put it in the freezer before you’re concerned about the quality going bad.”