New Legislation Seeks To Standardize Food Expiration Dates Nationwide

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By Cooking Panda

When you open the fridge in the morning and reach for a carton of milk, your sense of smell and sight probably serve as reliable determinants on whether or not it’s good to consume. Nobody — we hope — is going to recommend that you pour your curdled, sour milk into your breakfast cereal.

However, if you’ve been treating those use-by dates and expiration dates on your food as absolute mandates, the Senate and the House are unimpressed, and they’re here to tell you to stop. 

Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree from Maine are expected to announce their respective bills on May 18, which aim to establish a national standard for date labels, reports Consumerist.

According to the USDA, an average American throws out a considerable 36 pounds of entirely good food — and that’s per month. 

“Many products may have a ‘sell by’ date of, say, April 1, but they could be good in your pantry for another 12 or 18 months,” Chris Bernstein of the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service said last year, as reported by Eater.

“And by throwing those out, what you’re doing, is you’re contributing to food waste in the United States.”

In addition to Americans practice of unintentionally discarding safe “expired” foods, Consumer says that nearly half of the United States currently has laws that restrict or outlaw the sale of foods after their “best-by” dates have passed — even though some of the food may still be good to eat.

Just to make things more complicated, some expiration dates are in fact accurate reflections of a particular food’s safety — the aim of the bill therefore is to institute a nationwide standardized use for labels, which would distinguish between a date that signifies a product’s quality, and a separate date that informs consumers that the food may no longer be safe to consume.

Until the legislation comes into effect, check out Consumer’s useful 2013 guide as to some staple ingredients’ shelf lives.

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Sources: Consumerist, Eater, USDA/Youtube / Photo credit: Consumerist, Mass Public Health Blog

Tags: best by, expiration, house of representatives, senate
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