By Kerri Anne Renzulli
May 20, 2016

When sorting through the fridge do you go by the “sell-by” date, the “best before date,” the “use by” date, or do you just go with your gut?

For most Americans all those different labels are confusing and unclear indicators of freshness and product safety. So Congress on Wednesday introduced a bill aimed at combating such confusion by standardizing expiration date labels.

The Food Date Labeling Act would establish a national system with just two uniform labels for all products. One informs customers when food is at peak quality, and the other indicates when food becomes unsafe to consume. The bill promises to make the two labels clearly distinct from one another so there can be no doubt as to whether an item is still fit to eat.

“One of the most common arguments people seem to have at home is about whether or not food should be thrown out just because the date on the label has passed. It’s time to settle that argument, end the confusion and stop throwing away perfectly good food,” Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), who helped introduce the bill alongside Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), said in a press release.

Such label confusion was the cause of 90% of Americans throwing out food before it actually went bad, the Natural Resources Defense Council found. Homes in the U.S. throw out $162 billion-worth of food each year, contributing more food waste than grocery stores or restaurants.

Wasted food is also the largest contributor to landfills today, NRDC reports, which is likely why the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Agriculture set a goal to cut the nation’s food waste by 50% by 2030.

Creating a standard set of labels that give consumers a clear idea of freshness would certainly help with that mission.

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