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Can you be sure your food is commercially available food is safe or nutritious?

As World Food Program USA reports, lax requirements dealing with food expiration dates have prompted confusing labeling at best, resulting in hundreds of thousands of tons in wasted food and hungry households.

Confusing labels can lead to wasted food.
Confusing labels can lead to wasted food.

Apart from baby formula, there is no federally mandated system in the United States to classify dates by which products must be sold by, are freshest by, and expire, and the differences between.Fewer than 25 states currently require dating labels at all, and where it is required, the date may refer to some characteristic other than food quality, according to a report by the Food Law and Policy Clinic.

The USDA maintains that “use-by” and “sell-by” dates may not determine when a product needs to be thrown away, and that products may still be “safe, wholesome, and of good quality” after that period if handled properly. However such obscure details are lost on many, leading to at least 40 percent of all food in the US going to waste, PBS reports.

hundreds of thousands of tons in food goes to waste every year.
hundreds of thousands of tons in food goes to waste every year.

The inefficiencies of this system are putting the nutritional needs of a significant and growing number of Americans at risk. According to Feeding America, more than 38 million Americans live in food insecure households, including 12 million children.

While staggering, these numbers cannot be reduced without an adequate and easily employed solution to determining quality and freshness. Such an option has been proposed by the private and nonprofit collaborative ReFED, formed in 2015 to draw up a “Roadmap to Reduce U.S. Food Waste.”

Nutrition facts are standardized, but “use by” and “best by” dates are not.

ReFED’s plan, standardizing date labeling throughout the country, could feasibly prevent 400,000 tons of food going to waste in its first year alone.

Other innovations in label design could provide solutions to the problem as well. A report from Wired details strips that change color to indicate freshness over time have been proposed, along with design alterations to ingredient details that simplify and emphasize important nutritional facts.

Demand access to healthy food for all.
Demand access to healthy food for all.

It’s clear the technology is available and easily implemented. But there is yet legislation at the federal level to create a nationally recognized system for expiration dates, requiring labels indicate a food’s peak freshness date as well as the date after which the food is unsafe to eat.

Help make a difference. Click below and tell the FDA’s Office of Nutrition, Labeling, and Dietary Supplements that national standards for expiration dates need to be put in place now!

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