Food expiration dates confuse 9 of 10 Americans

 Resize text         Printer-friendly version of this article Printer-friendly version of this article

A new report from Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic and the Natural Resources Defense Council find that expiration dates on food labels do more harm than good.

According to the report, up to 90 percent of Americans are confused by these “sell by” or “use be” dates and waste around $165 million worth of food each year.

“Expiration dates are in need of some serious myth-busting because they’re leading us to waste money and throw out perfectly good food, along with all of the resources that went into growing it,” said Dana Gunders, NRDC staff scientist with the food and agriculture program. “Phrases like ‘sell by’, ’use by’, and ‘best before’ are poorly regulated, misinterpreted and leading to a false confidence in food safety. It is time for a well-intended but wildly ineffective food date labeling system to get a makeover.”

The study, “The Dating Game: How Confusing food Date Labels Lead to Food Waste in America,” also found that it gives a false perception of when food is unsafe to eat and is the leading cause of wasted food.  

Partly to blame is the tangled web of loose federal and state laws related to date labels, prompting researchers to recommend a national, universal food date labeling system.  

“We need a standardized, commonsense date labeling system that actually provides useful information to consumers, rather than the unreliable, inconsistent and piecemeal system we have today,” said Emily Broad Leib, lead author of the report and director of Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic. “This comprehensive review provides a blueprint calling on the most influential date label enforcers – food industry actors and policymakers – to create and foster a better system that serves our health, pocketbooks and the environment.”

Click here to read more

It’s no secret that food waste a big problem in the United States and across the world. A recent report from the U.N. Food and agricultural Organization shows that 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted each year. The waste essentially erases almost one-third of the land, water and other resources used to produce global food supplies. Read, “Food waste behind only U.S., China in carbon emissions.”

Comments (3) Leave a comment 

e-Mail (required)


characters left

Paul paulfortugno    
13215  |  September, 20, 2013 at 01:41 PM

so a can of vetable and meat can be eaten 1 year after or 2 years after the date on the can or what

45849  |  September, 20, 2013 at 03:47 PM

Why should this not confuse anyone. After all the fed. government authorized this program. Have you ever found much that the fed. doesn't foul up" The expiration dates 'DOES NOT MEAN THAT THE FOOD IS NO GOOD AFTER THE DATE ON THE LABEL , CAN ETC.' Food in cans as long as the seal is not broken IS STILL Good. Of course people, throw things out that is past the date on the product, just because they are ignorant of the facts. (not because they are dumb). If the product is canned and it is swollen up of course it is spoiled. The stores have to throw away out dated goods.

September, 21, 2013 at 10:33 AM

The study doesn't teach us anything new about food labels but it does verify the fact 90% of Americans walk around "confused" about the simplest things. That should be excellent news for anti-gmo evangelists and hucksters of organic foods. Their stock in trade is in misleading stupid consumers who possess more money than brains. Without ignorant gullible customers they would have no customers at all.

8560 4WD Shuttle

Built for Performance. Modern looking 83 hp workhorse with rugged, cast-iron chassis that provides more weight – resulting in more ... Read More

View all Products in this segment

View All Buyers Guides

Feedback Form
Leads to Insight