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'Sell by' dates are being scrapped to stop people from wasting so much food

Sell By, Use By, Expires On, Best Before ... it's all too confusing.

Americans throw away tons of food every year. A big reason so much food goes to waste is that people don't know what those "Sell By" and "Best Before" dates mean.

Wednesday, the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute – the grocery industry's two biggest trade groups – announced they'd be making some changes clarify for how long food is good.

Right now, there are more than 10 different date labels on packages – like Sell By, Use By, Expires On, Best Before, Better if Used By or Best By. No wonder people are confused.

So the grocery industry is going to cut that down to two standard phrases: “BEST If Used By" and "USE By."

If a product is labeled "BEST If Used By," that means that after that date, the food might not taste as good as it's supposed to. But it's still safe to eat.

On the other hand, "USE by" dates will apply to those products that are highly perishable. Do not eat those foods after that date.

Food retailers and manufacturers are encouraged to start using the new phrases immediately. The goal is to almost exclusively use those phrases by summer of 2018. This new standard is voluntary, so companies are not required to make the change right now.

In December, federal officials announced they would urge food makers and sellers to use the phrase “best if used by” to simplify things.

Food waste in the U.S.

An estimated 133 billion pounds of food (valued at about $161 billion) goes uneaten in people’s homes, food stores and restaurants in the United States every year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) reported.

GMA says about 44 percent of food waste sent to landfills comes from consumers. Data shows that clarifying the confusion around product date labeling could reduce national food waste by 8 percent – which is a step.

Additionally, GMA and FMI have been working with the National Restaurant Association to cut food waste by recycling and donating.

By 2030, USDA wants to reduce the amount of wasted food in landfills by 50 percent.

For tips on how to reduce food waste in your home, click here.

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