Are you throwing out good food because you think it's expired? New law seeks to improve labeling
Experts say we are tossing about 20% of our food because we mistakenly think it's expired.
We’re in the dairy section of a Thousand Oaks supermarket. Two people are stopped in front of one of the display cabinets, looking at the date on a carton of milk.
"I think a lot of people who see Sell By, at least in my family, will take that as Use By," said Sofia Sperber.
"It depends for me," said Donald Nichol. "You've got to give it the smell test...you want to look at the Sell By, Use By date."
"There's too many labels, and not enough education," said Darryl Little Junior, with the Natural Resources Defense Council, which is a non-profit environmental advocacy group. "Consumers are seeing these labels...Sell By, Best By...and they don't understand what they mean."
He said a lot of consumers are throwing out good food, which leads to increased food in our landfills, causing methane emissions and environmental issues. And, Little said for consumers, it means wasted dollars.
In 2017, a state law established voluntary labeling standards, using “Best If Used By”, and “Use By.” But, ask shoppers what the current labeling means, and many admit they are confused.
A Ventura County legislator has introduced a bill to try to end the confusion.
"One of the biggest labels you see is the Sell By label," said Democratic Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin of Thousand Oaks. "But that's really for when the grocers should rotate their stock, and take it off the shelves."
She said some people think it means that the food needs to be thrown out, which is incorrect.
Irwin introduced AB 660. It would make “Best If Used By” and “Use By” mandatory by 2025. It would also ban the use of the “Sell By” wording.
Irwin thinks this is really a national issue, but feels the rest of the country will follow if California steps up first.
Proponents of AB 660 say along with putting the law in place, there needs to be a major public education campaign to insure people understand what the wording means. Again, “Best If Used By” tells you when the product will have peak freshness. “Use By” is used to indicate food safety.
The law’s backers are hoping this legislation will create an expiration date to all of the current food date confusion.