Meeting COVID-19 challenges: Understand dates on food labels before discarding

Dates on food packages are intended to ensure quality — not safety. They aren’t required by law. Some exceptions exist, such as infant formula. Rather than relying on these dates, make it a habit to use or freeze perishable food within a few days of purchase. Freezing ensures safety indefinitely. However, quality will decline over time. Katherine Zeratsky, R.

Date labels on packaging confuse consumers

Confusion over food label dates is a growing problem as consumers have become more aware of food safety. Unsure consumers end up throwing away perfectly good food and squandering their food budget. Did you know that dates on most commercially packaged foods are not required, but rather added voluntarily? When a manufacturer chooses to include a date on a food label, it is often to inform consumers that their product will have the best quality if used by the date shown.

Dented cans may seem like a good deal when they are sold at a discount, but they are not. According to the United States Department of Agriculture USDA , if a can of food has a small dent, but is otherwise in good shape, the food should be safe to eat.

“Food products are safe to consume past the date on the label, and regardless ​answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/food-labeling/food-product-dating/food-product-​dating.

If you happen to notice the food has exceeded this date, you may have thrown it out, even though it was likely fine to eat. Think of all the wasted inputs to make that packaged food exist and get into your hands — watering, growing, harvesting, drying, packaging, and transporting. Furthermore, if that food gets fed into the landfill instead of your stomach , it generates greenhouse gases that contribute to atmospheric warming.

So, think again before tossing food out! Except for baby formula, expiration dates are not required to be on packaged commercial food. These dates are added voluntarily by the manufacturer to help retailers and consumers identify when a food is at peak flavor. At Outdoor Herbivore, we use a Best By date on our packages, which is a quality indicator, not an expiration date. Food quality indicators such as staleness, luster, and aroma will deteriorate after this date, but it does not mean it is unsafe to eat.

To check if the food is still good to eat, open up the pouch and take a whiff. Does it smell fresh or musty? Spoiled foods will often taste slightly metallic or bitter and can produce a numbness or tingling sensation on the tongue. One reason for that is because jerky is moist enough where halophilic bacteria, yeast, and molds can still grow. But more than likely, you will know it is bad because it will smell awful and the first bite will taste terrible.

When in doubt, throw it out.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Storing certain foods in the refrigerator is a sensible way to extend the quality, safety, and nutritional value of your groceries. Remember safety first with refrigerator storage. Microorganisms cause over 76 million cases of foodborne illness each year in the United States. The three microorganisms responsible for most cases are Norovirus , Campylobacter, and Salmonella. Improper food storage can cause these normally minor bacteria to multiply and cause foodborne illness.

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) proposed a delay to the and retailers that apply product dating to use a “best if used by” date label, instead of “sell by” and Oct 15, FAS Releases Fact Sheets Highlighting TPP Benefits The.

Is your favorite restaurant doing their part to combat food waste? Click on the image below to download and print our postcards to share with them! Storing your produce in the right place and at the right temperature can reduce the chance of waste. Understand what food product dates mean and when they may indicate food is no longer safe to consume. You can reduce food waste by donating food to a local food bank or food pantry. Check out our Donate page for more information and to find a location near you that accepts food donations.

Did you know that families in the U.

What do the terms “closed dating” and “open dating” mean?

Many people believe that when a meat package reaches the sell by, or use by, date printed on the package, the product is spoiled and unsafe. However, spoilage is a process that occurs over time so typically meat is not considered fresh one day and then spoiled the next day, based on a date on the package. Package dates are general guides that indicate the freshness of a product and also they signify when the product is best used by for quality purposes In addition, consumers are advised to use their senses to tell when a products is actually spoiled.

Color, on the other hand, is not a good indicator of spoilage or safety.

For more on food product dating, go to: get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/ Basic Nutrition for Everyone:

FSIS is also responding to comments received on the previous version of the fact sheet that was announced in the December Constituent Update. A downloadable version of the updated fact sheet is available here. Maya Norris. Tyson Foods Completes Ohio Plant Expansion The company will be adding hundreds of positions to help meet the growing demand for its protein products nationwide. Morgan Smith. Traceability for Mangoes in Mexico This Mexican company, leader in the export of fresh mangoes, has automated the traceability process in its secondary packaging and made it profitable, by integrating the latest generation Squid Ink printing equipment with automatic data collection.

Joyce Fassl. Sean Riley. David Greenfield. Kellogg Expanding Ohio Plant Company will be adding to its Morningstar Farms facility to meet consumer demand for plant-based products.

Act: Consumers

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by” dating for specific foods such as dairy products. This on food products. The use of ‘dating‘ on Egg cartons with the USDA grade shield on them must display the get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/food-labeling/food-product-​dating/.

In , treasure hunters discovered a Civil War-era steamboat at the bottom of the Missouri River. Among the items recovered were several, intact cans of food. Years later, scientists opened the cans to find perfectly edible peaches, oysters, and tomatoes. They remained unspoiled for more than a century. So why do modern canned foods claim to expire in a matter of months? Milk, yogurt, juice, sauces—they can all be subject to the sniff or taste test. Even meat that looks a little faded or gray is okay to eat.

The products to be careful with are those that pregnant women need to avoid—like deli meats and unpasteurized dairy products—and anything with mold. Manufacturers build in quality so that if the food is sold by that date. You can still bring it home and have a good quality shelf-life for some time. If a food has developed such spoilage characteristics, it should not be eaten.

Food Finds

While we may be quick to dismiss the freshness of these products in public, at home we may be more hesitant. Is there really any harm in using a cup of milk a day or two past its sell-by-date? According to the USDA, it is the manufacturer’s responsibility to determine the ideal shelf life of its food products. Prior to shipping, they take certain factors into consideration such as the temperature in which the food will be refrigerated at, the type of packaging in which the food will be contained in, and even the properties of the food itself as it could contain ingredients that could prolong shelf life.

Spanish. Food safety fact sheets, handouts and posters for consumers, educators and Basics for Handling Food Safely – USDA Food Product Dating – USDA.

Commentaries conform to JOE submission standards and provide an opportunity for Extension professionals to exchange perspectives and ideas. Abstract Extension can play a role in the United States’ campaign to reduce consumer food waste by Food waste exists alongside food insecurity and affects individual households, agriculture, and the environment.

Addressing food waste through a food systems approach requires involvement from Extension experts in family and consumer sciences, agriculture, environmental health, community development, policy, research, and education. Understanding the magnitude of and reasons for consumer food waste in the United States helps educators address this complex issue.

By changing how people think about and manage food and food waste, Extension can have a significant impact on future generations. Keywords: food waste , climate change , food insecurity , food systems , food safety Lisa H. Food waste is an emerging global issue that spans the food system from agricultural production to purchase, consumption, and disposal. All involved parties need to make better use of the food that is produced by wasting less of it. In September , the U. Applying a food systems approach to this challenge is logical as all steps involved in producing, distributing, and consuming food relate to the issue of food waste.

As the community education outreach arm of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, an agency of the USDA, Extension is the ideal organization to promote the reduction of food waste. And with its broad scope, Extension reaches all segments of the population having an impact on food waste in the United States.

U.S. Food System Factsheet

That “use-by” date on your food might not mean what you think it means. Find out what happens when we get too overzealous about expiration dates. So it goes into the trash—even though most of it remains totally safe to eat. That bombshell the NRDC tossed in has yet to detonate. Ultimately, though, the decision remains in the hands of the companies that sell the food. The average consumer in the U.

There’s No Federal Regulation For Food Product Dating Luckily, the USDA has provided valuable information regarding food safety tips. -education/get-​answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/safe-food-handling/shelf-stable-food-safety/​ct_index.

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Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us. Once you get the product home these are the dates that will concern you, the consumer:. Each manufacturer is entitled to use their own code system so there is not website or book to decipher codes on canned items and consumers would have to contact the manufacturer.

What’s the bottom line? None of these dates automatically means the product will be “bad” or dangerous to your health if purchased or consumed after the dates that appear on the product. All rights reserved. As many of our advertisers have shut down during these trying times, The Smoky Mountain News remains committed to its mission of providing free, fact-based, in-depth reporting.

Wasted Food – Are you out of Date?

Pop open a Snapple, and you’ll find fruit-flavored drinks that don’t just taste like fruit, they taste fruitier than the fruit itself. I suspect as shakeology is a dry product, it will be ‘best before’ but that’s just a guess. Subscribe for Free Get the latest news with our free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Multiple reports of people dying or suffering from anaphylaxis after eating expired mix that contained mold have been reported.

See ​answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/food-labeling/food-product-dating/.

All perishable food products naturally contain bacteria. Spoilage bacteria multiply over time when products are not frozen and send off signals that tell a consumer that this product may not taste good when eaten. Spoilage bacteria may create an odor, like the smell of sour milk; they may make meat appear to be slippery or slimy; and they may cause a color change or cause mold to appear. By contrast, the kind of bacteria that do cause serious foodborne illnesses are invisible and send no warning signs via odor or appearance.

Rather, these types of harmful bacteria more likely result from cross contamination during handling or processing. In fact, a product that becomes contaminated with a pathogen could be weeks away from its expiration date yet very harmful to the person who eats it. Fortunately, new technologies in plants and careful inspection procedures have reduced the presence of these bacteria on meat and poultry products and the illnesses associated with them, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the United States, different dating systems are used on products. Product dating is used to ensure that product is rotated properly during distribution and to ensure that the consumer has a positive eating experience. The dates are designed to ensure that products are high quality for the consumer and have little, if anything, to do with food safety though they are often thought of in this manner.

Many consumers now take advantage of discounted family packs meat and poultry or warehouse size packages.

Vegan Product Labeling Wars

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