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Is Your Food Expired? Don't Throw It Away Yet

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Food Safety Research Center page and our Organic Transitions page.

Forty percent of the US food supply is thrown away uneaten every year because of expired food dates, but a new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Harvard suggests that most of that food is still safe to eat.

Labels like 'use by' and 'sell by' on foods aren't actually an indicator of food safety, as many believe them to be, and, the report found, more than 90 percent of Americans are throwing out food prematurely because of misunderstandings of what food dates actually mean. In short, many foods are still safe to eat even after they're expired.

There is Only ONE National Regulation on Food Dating

While both the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) have the authority to regulate food dating, neither does, with the exception of infant formula (the only food product with a federally regulated date label, as the nutrients in the formula decline over time).

The rest of the food market has no such federal dating regulations, and the end result is a veritable free for all, with some states requiring food dates and establishing selling restrictions based on them and others not.

For instance, 20 states restrict stores from selling products after the use by dates while 30 do not. As the report highlights, are the people in the 20 more restrictive states better off? Most likely not       


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