Confused about what terms such as “best by”, “use before” and ‘sell by’ stamped on food and drinks actually mean? You’re not alone. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration says that confusion about food date labels results in 20% of food waste in homes.
That confusion is mainly due to the fact that there are no requirements for date labels on food. In fact, the FDA does not require expiration dates on food at all except for infant formula. (There are also some states do have expiration date requirements for certain food labels.)
In general, manufacturers put date labels on products at their own discretion. The date labels typically are to tell consumers up to what date a product will keep its desired flavor and quality. However, that does not mean that the food is bad and should not be consumed after that date.
To help avoid food expiration confusion, the FDA is supporting efforts by the food industry to standardize the quality food label phrase “Best If Used By”. Studies have shown that the phrase helps consumers comprehend that the label is about food quality, not safety. And that those products do not necessarily have to be thrown away if they are properly stored, according to the FDA.
The FDA has also developed the FoodKeeper App, which tells how long a certain food will last, apart from the “Best If Used By” label. The FoodKeeper App is available online or as mobile application for Android and Apple devices. The extensive guide tells how long a food will keep fresh in the pantry, refrigerator and freezer.