Expiration labels on food are misleading

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

expiration date
Just because a “best if used by” date passed, doesn’t mean it isn’t safe to eat. Play it safe by smell or taste! If you’re unsure, ask your parents before taking a bite.

Have you ever noticed the two different dates on food products? Usually, there is one “sell by” date which is not too far in the future, and a “best if used by” date that’s all over the place. According to a study from Harvard Law School, they confuse the heck out of supermarket shoppers, and individuals waste food because of it!

“People think the use-by date means either the product is going to die or you’re going to die if you eat it. And it’s just not true. You can’t tie shelf life to a date,” said Dr. Theodore Labuza, who reviewed the study. However, many people don’t know that, so billions of pounds of perfectly edible food is thrown out every year! Wait, if the date doesn’t mean the food is spoiled, what’s it there for?

Most of those labels are meant to indicate how fresh a product is. Basically, the older the date, the less fresh the food is. However, that does not mean the products can’t be eaten. “The labeling system is aimed at helping consumers understand freshness, but it fails – they think it’s about safety. And [consumers] are wasting money and wasting food because of this misunderstanding,” said co-author Emily Broad Lieb, who led the report.

Well, if the expiration date doesn’t mean it’s no longer fresh, how are we supposed to tell when it’s unsafe to eat? According to Labuza, it’s just a matter of trusting our senses. “If the food looks rotten and smells bad, you should throw it away, but just because it’s past the date on the package, it doesn’t mean it’s unsafe.”

Featured image courtesy of Anthony Albright on Flickr. Image courtesy of Todd Mecklem on Flickr.