Dates on Food Labels and Food Safety
Dates on Food Labels and Food Safety
  • Reporter Yun Seok-chan
  • 승인 2015.09.23 12:59
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Approximately 165 billion dollars’ worth of foods are getting tossed every year out of customers’ fears that their foods may be unsafe. To check for edibility of food in the refrigerator, people often either sniff at the food directly, or read the date on the food label. Food dating was devised in 1970s in order to satisfy consumers’ demands for more information about what they eat. However, even the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) remarks that certain types of food labels do not indicate food safety. Besides, there are cases where food labels appear to be confusing or unrelated to whether foods are safe to eat. In fact, dates on food labels vary in their names, meanings, and the types of products they are usually applied to.
"Sell by" or "display by" dates tell how long food can be displayed in a store. They suggest a guideline for a retailer when to pull out items. Thus, "sell by" dates virtually have got nothing to do with safety. "Use by" dates refer to dates by when food can remain its peak condition in terms of flavor, texture, color, etc. Consequently, "use by" dates are usually longer than "sell by" dates. Still, this term can be deceiving given that the food can be consumed past "use by" dates. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service, "use by" dates are not safety dates. There may be gradual changes in food conditions after "use by" dates, but the food may still be edible. "Best if used by" or "best before" dates are simply emphasized versions of use by dates. "Expires on" dates literally mean the food will no more be edible past them. Hence, any food that went past "expires on" dates should be tossed out. However, this type of food label is not common due to the fact that the federal government only regulates infant formula and some baby foods with respect to dating.
In brief, most, if not all food labels are voluntarily provided by manufacturers and are under no regulation of legal organizations or institutions. They will turn out to be bogus regarding food safety since they are merely designed to make sure and help people consume their foods while they remain their best quality. For example, assuming that the foods are kept in a fridge unopen, milk can last fifty days, beef can last thirty five days, canned tuna ten years, yogurt ten days, eggs twenty five days, plain bread twenty days, sliced cheese seventy days, coffee thirty days, and honey forever.
It is definitely impossible to find these products displayed or written as usable for such durations. New analysis suggests that the inconsistency between the food dating and the actual expiration date contributed to phenomenon where more than ninety percent of Americans threw away their foods prematurely, 40 percent of which were unused.
Therefore, just because the date on food label expired, it does not mean that the safety of food expired as well. Nevertheless, we cannot be fully exempt from getting sick since there are plenty of variables, especially the way we handle food. It would be ideal to consume food before the date on the food label elapses, but even if it fails, keep in mind that the food should not be thrown away prematurely since it may still be safe and edible as long as it was well kept.