The new voluntary initiative streamlines the myriad date labels on consumer products packaging down to just two standard phrases.“BEST If Used By” describes product quality, where the product may not taste or perform as expected but is safe to use or consume. C.) In a new industry-wide effort to reduce consumer confusion about product date labels, grocery manufacturers and retailers have joined together to adopt standard wording on packaging about the quality and safety of products.Currently, more than 10 different date labels on packages – such as Sell By, Use By, Expires On, Best Before, Better if Used By or Best By – can result in confused consumers discarding a safe or usable product after the date on the package.And if you decide what to eat based strictly on the package dates, you probably waste a lot of money.
"We continuously receive questions about what food is required to have expiration dates," says Mary Wang, a state food and drug scientist who advises health inspectors.
And shelf-stable products like cereal or pasta that bear "best if used by" dates will stay edible for months beyond the date. "In the United States, we're just very comfortable with numbers," says Carl Winter, food toxicologist at the University of California at Davis.
"If we have dates on our food, there is not a lot of ambiguity. We tend to take a green light-red light approach to food, and we do the same with sell-by dates and use-by dates." Since package dates are not designed to protect the public from foodborne illness, relying on them can lead to false assumptions about food safety.
It is perfectly legal, for example, for a supermarket worker to take a steak that is older than the date stamped on the package and relabel it with a new date.
The milk with next month's date may not be fresher than the carton with next week's date.