What Do Food Dates Really Mean?

Regiments with productsFood Packaging Dates

Chances are, each time you take something out of your pantry or refrigerator, you check the date on the packaging. If the date on the packaging has past, you may do like most Americans and toss the item into the trash. Almost 50 percent of food that is bought in the United States ends up in the trash, mostly due to a misunderstanding of the date that is printed on the packaging.

According to the director of the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic, Emily Broad Leib, 90 percent of Americans admit that they have thrown out food due to the date that was printed on it because they thought that meant it was unsafe to eat. While this is wasteful and unfortunate, it is very common, mostly because people do not fully understand what the date really means.

Food packaging is typically printed with one of seven numbers, which includes:

  • Just a date, with no other information
  • Sell by
  • For best taste, use by
  • Best by
  • Enjoy by
  • Use by
  • Display until

Most people think that no matter what the prefix is to the date, if the date has passed, it means it is time to toss it out. In reality, food date labels do not have a lot to do with the actual safety of a food. They do, however, have a large effect on the sale of the food. Many grocery stores will throw out $2,000 worth of completely safe food each day because of the dates that are printed on the packaging.

Knowing what each date actually means can help you decide when it is really time to throw out your food. “Best by” and “use by” dates are printed by the manufacture as a way to show when the product will reach the peak of freshness. This does not mean that the food is bad after this point. “Sell by” is printed by the manufacturer for use by the seller to make sure the proper turn over time of the products.

Contact Alliance Group in Fairport, New York for all of your insurance coverage needs and to ensure that you are protected in case of accidentally ingesting spoiled food.