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We have all seen food labels that are hard to understand and lead to more questions than answers.  Is the food okay to eat or not?  Is it expired?  Should I just eat it anyway or throw it away?  This should not be the case and certainly not when you are on a diet program and investing money and time in eating healthy, whole food.  The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) are suggesting that food companies limit food expiration labels to two terms: “Best if Used By” and “Use By” to make things clearer for consumers.

Best if Used By: The new “Best if Used By” label is more related to quality than safety.  These foods have the best taste, appearance, and freshness when consumed before the stamped date.  Foods that will feature this label are your pantry foods, such as peanut butter.

Use By: Foods that feature the “Use By” label will include foods that are highly perishable, such as meats, seafood, or dairy.  These foods should be thrown away if not consumed by the “Use By” date.  For perishable foods, it is important to note that the “Use By” date is not the only thing to pay attention to.  Once the food package is opened, consider other factors, such as how long that food can be opened before cooking or safely consuming.  Definitely keep that in mind when doing your diet program food prep!

New Labels May Reduce Food Waste: According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), about $160 billion worth of food is wasted in the US every year.  Some of the expiration labels are a mystery to read and end up accounting for a portion of the 30% of food wasted in the United States.  A report in 2013 by Harvard University and the Natural Resource Defense Council highlighted the fact that 90% of Americans throw out foods because of unclear expiration dates.  The FMI and GMA believe that by making food labels easier to understand, the total national food waste could be reduced by 8%. 

Push for Widespread Adoption by 2018: Both the FMI and GMA are pushing for widespread adoption of the new labels by summer 2018.  The adoption of the new food labels has been supported by major food industry companies.  Furthermore, the USDA has recently changed a few laws that focus on food expiration labels.

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