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Confusion over 'use by' labels causes 7% of food waste in the U.S.

By Nicholas Gerbis
Published: Wednesday, December 27, 2023 - 7:05am
Updated: Wednesday, December 27, 2023 - 10:08am
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‘Tis the season to make way more food than we can eat.

But research shows our own perceptions about food date labels might play a major role in food waste, too.

The Congressional Research Service reports that confusion over food date labels accounts for 7% of food waste in the U.S.

With no federal oversight of what more than 10 variations of “best if used by” and “use-by” actually mean, people have little to fall back on but their own levels of risk-aversion.

The November 2023 Consumer Food Insights Report, a nationwide survey of 1,200 consumers, found half thought such date labels had to do with food safety, while over 30% believed they related to peak food quality.

That’s closer to the truth, though labeling information is largely left to the manufacturer’s discretion.

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