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Amid concerns that between 30 percent and 50 percent of food worldwide is going to waste, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently issued a set of guidelines on what dates on food packaging really mean.
Surprisingly the majority of expiration dates on food products do not indicate the due time before food is spoiled. Most of them are associated with quality loss.
USDA officials recommend that the best way to know whether a food item is spoiled is to either smell or taste it. They also recommend consumers to make sure that they store food in appropriate places because otherwise food can easily spoil long before expiration date.
Unfortunately, many people believe that they should throw out food after the ‘sell by’ dates. Yet, USDA investigators said that ‘sell by’ dates are only recommendations that tell the store how long to keep the products on display. They aren’t determined by the maker of the product but by stores. The same goes for ‘best used by’ date.
Additionally, ‘best by’ date does not indicate that the food is good to go. Instead it is an indicator that the food may not have the initial flavor after that date, although it is still safe to eat.
Federal guidelines require expiration dates only for infant formula, which means that the ‘best by’ date is not just an indicator of a loss in flavor but it also means that the product is degraded, has less nutritional value and it should be thrown out.
Nevertheless, USDA cautions that food should not be eaten after the ‘use by’ date since that date indicates that food is no longer safe to eat.
Experts long knew that people indiscriminately throw away food regardless of the dates listed on the packaging. Most consumers believe that sell by date indicates that that item is no longer safe for human consumption, which is plain wrong. And this is why billions of dollars worth of food unnecessarily go to the dumpster every year.
According to a recent survey, women are more likely to pay close attention to dates on food packaging, but they are also more prone to discard food when those dates had passed. The U.S. alone throws away $160 billion worth of food every year.
Image Source: Discuss cooking
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