I always try to buy food products that have the longest shelf life. However, I must admit that I've been confused by the two different expiration dates commonly seen on food. There is the "sell by" date, which is there for the vendor, and then there's the "best by" date for the consumer. The main purpose for these dates is to avoid food waste. However, it seems that these current dates do little to help as statistics show that the average family wastes about $1,500 in edible food every year.

The dates provided for us by food manufacturers are actually not even federally required. They are there as a courtesy of food companies and the dates shown are meant for the quality of food rather than safety. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently issued a statement advising food manufacturers to use only a "best if used by" label. 

coffee, wine
Judy Holtz

It seems that the USDA has only good intentions for this date changing implementation. I can't think of how changing all of the dates to "best if used by" can result in anything other than good. However, I believe this change will not significantly decrease food waste. I believe that most people don't dispose of their food simply because they are confused by the date written on the food packaging. I think consumers are throwing their food away mainly based on smell, taste, and appearance of their food. Expiration dates play a role in food waste, but they are not solely to blame.

If food companies follow the USDA's recommendation in changing the date label to "best if used by," I believe consumers will have no choice but to follow the new labeling recommendations. No worries though! By following the labels, consumers should have no confusion about the meaning of the date on their food packaging.