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Report calls for uniform date labeling rules on food products

September 23, 2013
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According to statistics published by non-profit organization the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), as many as nine in 10 Americans throw away food prematurely, confused by what the date on the label means, with a quarter of them doing so on a daily basis.

The dates printed on the food product's label can be confusing to consumers because some of them show when the product should be sold by, when it is best before and when it should be used by. However, there is barely any regulation that oversees what dates are printed on food packaging, causing consumers to throw away food that is perfectly safe to eat.

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The NRDC has prepared a report in partnership with Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic that looks into the amount of edible food discarded in the United States and the money that households waste in doing so. The organization estimated that the annual loss for each family amounts to between $275 and $450.

The report calls for regulation on date labeling on food products, which would ensure that all manufacturers follow a standardized procedure for putting dates on food. Consumers should know what exactly is meant by terms like best before. Rules should also clarify whether these dates mean that the product is still safe but there may be changes to its taste or color or if it means the product should not be consumed at all, the authors of the report say.

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