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“We are fine with there being quality or freshness dates as long as it is clearly communicated to consumers, and they are educated about what that means,” says study co- author Emily Broad Leib, the director of Harvard Food Law & Policy Clinic.
“There should be a standard date and wording that is used. You can make your own decision about whether a food still has an edible quality that’s acceptable to you.” (MORE: Is It Worth Buying Organic?
Expiration dates can be hard to locate on a product and even more challenging to decipher.
Currently, the United States does not have a regulated or standard system for coding expiration dates on food, except for those on baby food and infant formula.
Use-by dates are intended for consumers and indicate when a product will start to deteriorate, while the latter two are for grocery stores to know how long to keep products displayed on the shelves.
Typically, products are good for seven to ten days past their sell-by or pull-by dates. For instance, even the posted sell-by or best-if-used-by label found on many dry goods, such as canned food items, may not reflect the most accurate shelf life of these products.
Food dating emerged in the 1970s, prompted by consumer demand as Americans produced less of their own food but still demanded information about how it was made.
“The food has to be safe, that’s a given,” says Roberts.On the other hand, if numbers are used to signify the month, 1-9 will represent January to September, while the last three months will be assigned the first letter of their name, respectively (O for October, N for November, and D for December).Codes may also be comprised exclusively of numbers typically presented in the standard order of MMDDYY or YYMMDD (e.g., September 12, 2016 would be 091216 or 160912).That means the food does not expire in the sense of becoming inedible.For un-refrigerated foods, there may be no difference in taste or quality, and expired foods won’t necessarily make people sick.