Masses of food wasted - 'use by' dates mislead
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of San Francisco Chronicle (SF's leading newspaper)
Posted: October 1st, 2013
Americans throw away 40 percent of the food they buy, often because of misleading expiration dates that have nothing to do with safety, said a study released [on September 18] by Harvard University Law School and the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group. The report said 90 percent of Americans toss good food into the garbage because they mistakenly think that "sell by," "best before," "use by" or "packed on" dates on food containers indicate safety. One-fifth of consumers, the report said, "always" throw away food based on package dates. In fact, "sell by" dates are used by retailers for inventory control. "Best before" or "use by" dates usually reflect manufacturer estimates of peak quality. While some labels are intended to indicate freshness, none of them reflects edibility or safety, said Ted Labuza, a food science professor at the University of Minnesota who collaborated with the authors. "If food looks rotten and smells bad, throw it away, but just because it reaches a certain date does not mean the food is unsafe," Labuza said. "I don't know of any food poisoning outbreak that came from people eating food that was past its shelf-life date." The report estimated the value of food tossed away at $165 billion a year. Food waste is a big source of greenhouse gases. Wasting food also squanders vast quantities of water, land, fertilizers, petroleum, packaging and other resources that go into producing it. About a quarter of all fresh water used in the United States goes into the making of food that is thrown away, the report said.