Researchers Say “Best Before” Dates Result In Massive Amounts Of Wasted Food

If you’re a regular reader of Consumerist, you’re likely aware that there’s a big difference between a “use by” and a “best before” date; the former is a sign that the food may be unsafe to eat after a certain date (though even that’s not always true) while the latter is an indicator that the item might not taste its best after that date, but is still safe to eat. However, many people don’t understand this distinction — and tons of food is wasted every year as a result.

Reuters reports on a new discussion paper, put forth by Sweden and the Netherlands, about food waste in the European Union and calling into question the need for “best before” dates on products with a long shelf life.

According to the researchers, 100 million tons of food is unnecessarily thrown away every year in the EU because of this confusion. This waste has a two-pronged impact — environmentally, it’s more stuff being thrown out that doesn’t need to be; economically, it’s consumers paying for food they don’t eat, or stores throwing away food they don’t sell.

Stateside, former Trader Joe’s president Doug Rauch has been launching a pilot store called The Daily Table, to sell perfectly good food that grocery stores like his former employer would deem no longer sellable because it has passed a certain date.

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  1. BikerGeek79 says:

    If companies would just print the date past which the food is no longer safe to eat on their packaging, none of this confusion would happen.

    I don’t want to have to decipher a lot code or even have to do some convoluted date and time math to figure out if I’m going to die from some canned chili.

    • OrionBFury says:

      I think I read that the FDA is having them use Julian dates, it’s just a slow roll out. But it’ll be an uphill battle for a use by date, since it’s in their best interest to use best by dates, shorter time, you’re more likely to buy more often then.

      • sylphon says:

        Yes and no. Honestly if I have to toss something because it is past the expiration date, I’m less likely to buy it immediately again since I obviously didn’t need it the first time. The few exceptions to that are major staples and also things that I failed to notice were expiring close to when I bought them.