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How Confusing Labels Land Billions of Pounds of Food in the Trash

The Dating Game: How Confusing Labels Land Billions of Pounds of Food in the Trash - This brief is a summary of a joint report of NRDC and the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic, September 2013.

“Here’s a superbly-kept secret: all those dates on food products—sell by, use by, best before—almost none of those dates indicate the safety of food, and generally speaking, they’re not regulated in the way many people believe. The current system of expiration dates misleads consumers to believe they must discard food in order to protect their own safety. In fact, the dates are only suggestions by the manufacturer for when the food is at its peak quality, not when it is unsafe to eat… This misinterpretation of dates costs money. Americans  spend between $1365 to $2275 per household of four on food  that is ultimately thrown out. While there is no research to indicate how much of that is due to expiration date confusion here in the U.S., a British study estimated that 20 percent of food wasted in British households is due to misinterpretation  of date labels. If this same estimate were true for the U.S., it would mean that the average household is discarding $275 to $455 per year of good food because of confusion over date labels.”

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