From the Food Nation Radio News Desk
“Best By” Date Causes Food Waste – At a time when food supply chains have been disrupted and shelves are empty of some products, the USDA estimates that 30-40% of the foods produced in America gets wasted every year. Presently, the “use by” and “best by” or “best if used by” dating schemes are all created by the food manufacturers, not the USDA, and then vigorously enforced at the grocery level. It turns out that though that perfectly good food is being pulled off the shelves and dumped. Obviously, the food manufacturers have a vested interest in selling more food product. Grocers want to appear to be selling foods that are fresh. Consumers have been trained not to purchase or use products that are beyond the date stamped on the label. So foods that might indeed be perfectly fine to eat are being dumped. A University of Maryland study is looking at ways to reduce waste: creating science-based unified, farm to table approach to safe and honest product labeling system ensuring that perfectly good food isn’t pulled off the shelf prematurely.
“We have 50 different types of date labels that are currently used in the US because there is no regulation — best by, best if used by, use by — and we as consumers don’t know what these things mean,”
So says Debasmita Patra, assistant research professor in Environmental Science and Technology and lead author on the study.
“The labeling is the manufacturer’s best estimation based on taste or whatever else, and it is not scientifically proven. But our future intention is to scientifically prove what is the best way to label foods. As a consumer and as a mom, a best by date might raise food safety concerns, but date labeling and food safety are not connected to each other right now, which is a wide source of confusion. And when billions of dollars are just going to the trash because of this, it’s not a small thing.”
“Food is something that is involved in everybody’s life, and so everyone needs to be a good food manager. But even now, there is no robust scientific evidence behind date labels, and yet those labels govern people’s purchasing behavior. People look for something that has a longer ‘best by’ date thinking they are getting something better. And when you throw that food away, you are not only wasting the food, but also all the economics associated with that, like production costs, transportation from the whole farm to fork chain, and everything else that brought you that product just to be thrown away.” “Best By” Date Causes Food Waste – definitely!
No word yet if the USDA, Food Manufacturers Association or the Grocers Association will take this study into consideration.
Image by Mircea Iancu from Pixabay