Are you part of the 90% who toss food before it's time?

Thursday, February 22, 2024 2:08 PM

As a country girl I learned a lot from my grandma about “waste not want not”.  One of my pet peeves is how consumers let food dates intimidate them into throwing away perfectly fine food.

Truth: With the exception of infant formula, product dating is NOT required by law.  In fact food expiration dates have more to do with quality than safety. They’re the manufacturer’s best estimate of when the product is at its freshest or “peak quality.”  Depending on the food most will still be good to eat days, weeks, or months after those dates.  So, if you’ve been throwing food out on these dates hopefully this will help clarify some terms and help you save money.

According to one industry study, 90 percent of Americans throw away food too soon and over half do it regularly. All due to a simple misunderstanding about package dates. Okay. So if the packaging date doesn’t tell you when food goes bad, how do you know if it’s still good?

Use your senses: sight, smell and taste.  Trust your own judgment.  Look for indicators such as bad mold (as opposed to good mold like cheese).   In fact many of our favorite foods such as yogurt, wine, kombucha and fermented foods are just “controlled spoilage”.  

Some commonly used terms:

Best before/best by/use by: refers to quality rather than safety.  According to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) these are usually safe to eat after the date but may not be “best” quality.  

Sell by: usually you can ignore this as it’s meant for store staff to rotate or check for freshness.

An excellent resource is the FSIS website.  It is a wealth of information on how to safely store, prep and process foods.  Following are just a few helpful links: 

Shelf-Stable Food Safety

Food Product Dating | Food Safety and Inspection Service

FSIS Guidelines | Food Safety and Inspection Service

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