The Food and Drug Administration is looking for food waste with a new effort to ensure that we do not throw out groceries before they are completely inedible.
On Thursday, the agency released a letter to the food industry as a whole, and cast its backing on a growing trend for almost universally adopting a "Best if Used By" date label on products. At the same time, it also reminds the public that most foods can still be completely safe to eat if they are past the marked date, although they may not be as tasty anymore. The movements are part of a greater effort by the FDA to drastically cut back on American food waste.
"Imagine this: You go to your favorite supermarket and come out with three bags full of groceries. Before you get into the car, you throw one of those bags in trash. Sound ridiculous? Of course, do it but it is mainly what food waste looks like every day throughout our country, "said Frank Yiannas, FDA's Food Policy and Response Deputy, in a statement released Thursday as part of the FDA's Consumer Update. [1[ads1]9659004] According to the US Department of Agriculture, 30 percent of Americans' food eventually goes to store shelves or people's homes, accounting for about $ 161 billion a year. An important reason why the average person throws out the food, according to the research cited by the CIA, is confusion as to what the various tables of data they really mean.
The FDA and the USDA (the agencies responsible for regulating the food) do not actually require the use of a date label on most foods; Businesses do it on their own. Neither do they need to run the language used in these marks by the FDA for approval, or even explain how they determine their dates. It has led to a wide range of date labels on foods, such as "sold by", "expiring on" or "using."
The problem is that while people tend to assume they are looking at a product's expiration date, the labels should only convey the quality and freshness of the food, not whether it is safe to eat. Even by that standard, the date is a rough guess, so many foods will remain fresh past the predicted day.
However, in recent years, the food industry has tried to clear up this confusion. In 2017, the Grocery Association and the Food Marketing Institute formed an alliance to recommend that its member companies adopt the "Best if Used By" brand for all non-perishable foods and the "Use of" label for destructive foods. Only foods with the "Use By" sign added, would have an expiration date that is usually understood, meaning that food is past that date may be uncertain.
In its letter to the industry, the FDA says it "strongly supports" the widespread use of the "Best if Used By" mark for all appropriate foods. The FDA's strong proposal reflects that in the USDA, which mainly regulates animal products such as meat and eggs.
"We expect that over time, the number of data tables will be reduced as the industry adapts to this" Best if Used By & # 39; terminology, says Yiannas. "This change has already been adopted by many food producers."
However, the great exception to this rule is some kind of baby food. The FDA has long been mandated to use a "Use By" sign on all infant formulas intended to guarantee the quality and safety of the product. Interestingly, the agency does not offer whether the industry's growing confidence in the "Use By" mark for perishable foods that are not infant formula is worth adopting, at least not right now.
Foods that are still around the fridge or pantry past their "Best if Used By" date, the FDA noted in the letter: "Be safe, healthy and of good quality after the quality date", as long as they are stored properly.
Instead of a hard and fast rule to decide when the food is gone, the FDA also suggests that a dash of common sense should be enough help. If your cup of yogurt looks, smells or feels different than it usually does, it's enough time to throw it out.