These days, inflation drives up the cost of living across the board. And that extends to groceries.
Lots of people rack up highs credit card tabs for stocking up on basic necessities in the supermarket. And even worse, they fall into the trap of throwing away goods prematurely, wasting money in the process.
But are consumers responsible for food waste? Not entirely. While some of us might be better off taking inventory at home before shopping and planning meals to avoid food waste, we are often driven to throw away produce prematurely because of how confusing they are. labeled.
Are food labels misleading you?
walk it supermarket aisles, and you’ll likely notice a number of different labeling conventions on items you commonly buy. Some items may have an expiration date. Others might have a “best buy” date. And then there are those who have a “enjoy before” date.
All of these labels can be extremely confusing, as they can make it very difficult to determine when food should be discarded versus when it is safe to eat. And because there’s no national standard for how product expiration dates are assigned, manufacturers can use whatever language they choose, even if it’s hard to decipher.
Take “enjoy”, for example. If a food has a label “to be enjoyed by August 15th”, does that mean that this item will no longer be enjoyable from August 16th? And if so, will consumers simply have less pleasure in eating it, or will it be downright dangerous?
It’s hard to know. And that’s why it’s so important to get to the bottom of things – to avoid wasting money on discarded products.
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How to Navigate Food Labels
It’s a big misconception that a food’s “sell by” date is the last date it can be consumed. Rather, the sell-by date is simply the date that manufacturers recommend consuming their product – perhaps to optimize taste or freshness. But to be clear, a food with a “sell by” date of August 15 may very well be safe to eat on August 25. As such, you can use a “sell by” date as a guideline or suggestion rather than gospel.
That said, you can generally take more liberties with canned and packaged items than you can with dairy, meat, and fresh produce. If you’re buying poultry with a “sell by” date of August 15, you’ll probably want to try cooking or freezing it before that date. But that doesn’t mean you have to consume it before then. You can cook your chicken on the 15th and eat it the following days.
Of course, it’s always important to use common sense in conjunction with expiration dates to determine if a given item is safe to eat. If you have milk at home with a sell-by date of August 15, but it smells and tastes good on August 18, go ahead and drink it. But if that milk smells sour or pours out in clumps on August 14th, throw it out.
Are changes underway?
Late last year, the Food Date Labeling Act 2021 was introduced, and its aim is to get manufacturers to use the terms ‘use by’ or ‘best if used by’. only on products. The logic is that more consistent labeling language could lead to less food waste. So far, this bill has not yet become law. But if so, it could help save consumers a world of wasted food – and money.
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