FDA Wants to Standardize Food Expiration Labels to “Best If Used By”
The agency hopes to cut down on food waste
Most of the food we eat come with expiration dates, but those little numbers don’t always mean the same thing. Many shoppers are confused by the terms on expiration labels.
“Some of them say ‘sell by,’ some of them say ‘best by,’ I don’t know what the difference is,” Nicole Mattson of Moorhead said.
A new FDA guideline would make all expiration labels have one standard of “best if used by.”
The FDA hopes to cut down food waste by using a standard term. The agency says $161 billion worth of food is being tossed each year.
“I am absolutely wasting food, I am really paranoid about food poisoning and getting sick so I err on the side of throwing something out probably too soon,” Mattson said.
The dates on the current labels don’t mean you have to throw something out.
The “best by” date is when the product is the freshest. It does not mean it’s unsafe if the date has passed.
“Sell by” shows how long the product is on the shelves. It also doesn’t mean it’s not safe.
“Use by” is the last date recommended to use a product.
“As a society we’re trained to see that date and throw it out and not use our best judgement, the education is to let people know there are other guidelines and we can use our instincts, our nose to smell and our eyes to see what the product’s like,” Candace Anderson with Prairie Roots Co-op said.
Prairie Roots Co–op uses “sell by” labels for food that doesn’t come from other vendors. If the new guideline gets put in place, they will update their labels to “best if used by.”
We ran into a doctor who says confusion over labels is very common in her practice.
“I spend a lot of time educating my patients on what these different things mean so they can make the best choice for themselves and their family,” Dr. Maggie Peterson of Enderlin said.
Consumers say a standard label would make things easier.
“If I had a reliable way to know, is it good, is it not good, that would be so helpful,” Mattson said.
The guideline is not a requirement yet, but the FDA hopes the food industry will make the change over time.