It’s not you. Date labels on food make no sense.

There are so many different kinds of date
labels. Creme fraiche. I don’t even know what creme fraiche is. Oh that’s something else. It can be REALLY confusing to know what all
these labels indicate. A lot of times you just throw away food that’s
past whatever date you see. But you’re actually throwing away tons of
perfectly good food because many times, these dates don’t mean what you think they mean. Say you have a carton of eggs with a label
that says “sell by January 1st.” If they’re in your fridge past that date,
you might throw them away thinking they’re probably bad. But “sell by” is just a label for retailers
to know when it’s time to take food off their shelves, so they can manage their inventory. It actually doesn’t tell you anything about
the safety of those eggs. And that’s not the only misleading label
on your food. Part of the problem is that there are way
too many labels to begin with. Walmart, one of the biggest food retailers
in the country, surveyed its label suppliers and found a total of 47 different kinds of
date labels on their products. Almost all of these labels indicate the quality
of food. Manufacturers put down dates to suggest when
food will be at its best. Or when its taste and freshness will start
to deteriorate. These labels are useful indicators of food
quality, but they’re widely misinterpreted as a sign of food safety. This national survey about perceptions of
labels found that about 84% of people would at least occasionally throw away food that’s
past the date on labels. This confusion around date labels has created
a massive food waste problem in the United States. All the uneaten food waste costs us over $200
billion each year, and two thirds of that comes from households. It costs the average family of four somewhere
between $1,500 and $1,800 a year to purchase food that then ends up in the trash. And I think it’s probably not a family in
America that wouldn’t like to have $1,500 dollars back in their pockets. This is JoAnne Berkenkamp, a senior advocate
at an environmental group that has studied the impact of food labels. People often assume that they’re federally
regulated. And in fact that’s not the case with the exception
of infant formula. So it really is up to food manufacturers to
figure out what they’re going to do with those dates on their particular products. Yeah, the label makes sense if you’re a
little baby, but for everything else, it’s often up to the
state governments to decide if they want date labels and what those labels should say. That’s where it gets really confusing. In Georgia for example the law says that “Expiration
Date” is interchangeable with “Best by,” “Best before,” “Use by,” and “Sell by” dates. But in Minnesota a product needs to have
a “quality assurance date” which can be a date of manufacture or packaging, a freshness
date, an expiration date, or a shelf display date. And a state like New York says “Date labels? Fughetaboutit!” I don’t deserve love. In total 41 states plus Washington DC require
some kind of food date label. So there’s this real amalgam of different
rules from one state to another and that contributes to confusion for consumers. And it also makes it harder for food processors
and manufacturers to comply with those rules. You know, most larger food companies are shipping
food across state lines and so trying to comply with that patchwork of regulations is just
tough for the food businesses as well. So what can be done to fix this labeling problem? Many experts think that the best solution would
be a federal regulation that standardizes all date labels. And what would this new label say? One way to avoid confusion would be to remove
visible “sell by” dates. Instead, packages could have a scannable barcode
that would still allow stores to track their inventory without confusing customers. Another way would be to standardize labels
for safety and for quality. Foods where there is a safety risk could say
“safe if used by”, which wouldn’t be applied to most foods that don’t really
expire. For quality they could say “peak quality
guaranteed before” instead of just “best by.” Having a standardized label would remove a lot of confusion, but even then, we shouldn’t treat these dates like gospel — when
you’re trying to decide if your food is safe to eat, your best bet is still just trusting your
senses. And if we all band together and do our part,
maybe, just maybe, I can some day figure out what creme fraiche is.

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100 thoughts on “It’s not you. Date labels on food make no sense.

  1. Expiration dates aren’t the only confusing part of food packaging. Here’s why the “natural” food label on so many grocery store items is meaningless:

  2. Problem isn't labels, it's people buying too much food or food nobody likes and then throwing it away. Eat what you buy. If you are not going to eat it, don't buy it. If you are too stupid to figure out what the label means then bite into the food and you will find out.

  3. We in Europe do not have that problem. In fact I never knew it was a problem. Our products have "Use before" stamped on them by law. Nothing else.

  4. why is this a problem america? in my country it very clearly states when it was bottled and when it's best by

  5. Not happening in Europe….the date always means "Use before"…but even then you can still use it a few days after without any problems.

  6. were i work at we have rendering bin that takes expired food waste and sends it to a plant that make mulch or food for animals.

  7. I sell specialty food. You would not believe how much perfectly good food we have to throw away (or eat) that is perfectly good. People will not buy it because they think they're going to die. Totally wasteful.

  8. Let it be a good lesson. Cats are evil and they are just waiting for you to die in your sleep so they can eat you.

  9. How about no labels. Just have a barcode to keep track of inventory. Easier for businesses/makes consumers use their senses

  10. this video's really cool and all, but i'm just slightly offended that of all states, your animated fridge lacks a new jersey magnet.

  11. I don't find it confusing. Given the chemical additives to many foods, things can look and smell fine and have lost their nutritional value. I fully support a standard method and expiration dates are better than relying on someone's personal perception. I'd rather throw food away (or maybe not buy too much),

  12. I am sorry but if you have ever seen your food in reverse because of food poisoning, you would trust the date label very very much….

  13. In Germany EVERY food item has a date up to which it is guaranteed to be edible. After that it's up to you to decide whether you still want to eat it. Easy as that.

  14. WTF America?!?! In Finland there are only two labels: "Best before X" (is safe to eat after the date) and "Expires by X" (is not safe to eat after the date)

  15. as long as you heat something to 75 degrees for a minute it will be safe to eat no matter how expired it is. everything else if just how enjoyable it is going to be. if it smells fine, eat it. i have had Greek yogurt open in my fridge for 3 weeks and its fine. once i had some apples that stayed fresh for 2 months.

  16. 3:35 If i had to scan every piece of food in my department to find out which ones are past the sell by date I'd want to kill myself

  17. This is super irresponsible. There may be confusion about poorly managed regulations (note that this is in the US), but there are still regulations for a reason! Pretty much all foods have hazards associated with them and the “smell test” cannot detect listeria, salmonella, or E. coli (which are the most common causes of foodborne illnesses and people die from them every year, especially children, the elderly, and the immunocompromised). You just gave out dangerous medical advice, Vox. Throw out expired food!!!

  18. these are the old school good quality vox videos, enough trump bashing and more informative stuff like this please!!

  19. writing exception yesterday difficult institution handsome portray traditionally little dilemma Olympic.

  20. If you shake an egg and hear something sloshes inside, that means the egg isn't fresh. Learn it from my Asian mom 😀

  21. Please cite your sources, it would make the verification process of the informations validity far more convenient.

  22. creme fraiche is bad milk…. just like yogurt or creme or cheese… it is all the same… it is bad milk.

  23. Here in the UK are system is simple (To me at least). There are two types of date labelling – Use by or – Best before. If a product has a Best before the date it will be on a product that is less dangerous if consumed after that date such as bread or pasta. Use by is used for only products that will cause harm after that date. Such as milk, meat and Crème Fraiche these products must be consumed before or on the date shown. Simple enough I would say, obviously you have more room to make a judgement on Best before as the product is less likely to cause you harm. Regarding Use by you will have a much high risk of harm to your self by consuming that product after the date.

  24. I am perplexed by the fact that at 3:00 the map has Hawaii and Alaska, but no New Jersey????? WHY NO NJ??? Insulting even.

  25. In Germany, there's only the standardized "Mindesthaltbarkeitsdatum", though it still confuses people.

  26. 33 bucks a month in wasted food per person? That sounds a little excessive. I dont buy 15lb of chicken breast per month and proceed to throw it out.

  27. Sometimes you have to go by smell. But sometimes that doesn't work. I had a back of turkey bacon that looked and smelled good but made me sick. And how come lettuce only last 2 days now?

  28. It is not the responsibility of the federal government. This is an issue for states and their people to decide. Give the vote back to the people

  29. The only date labels that should exist is "production date", along with possibly having other things like "estimated shelf-life based on testing" and/or "texture and/or taste may change around ____". It's terrible the amount of misinformation that exists amongst consumers, and the lack of proactiveness amongst businesses regarding this issue.

  30. In Norway many labels have now been changed to state "best before <date>, but not bad after" and foods with more safety concerns such as raw chicken have a freshness indicator on the package which is a small vial filled with a chemical compound that changes color based on age and temperature.

  31. My mom always told my the dates in foods are not accurate and to just throw something away if it’s moldy or tastes or smells sour or rotten

  32. In Italy we have two very simple systems:
    Da consumarsi entro (that means that after that date it might be harmful)
    Da consumarsi preferibilmente entro (that means that after that date it is still safe but might taste odd)

  33. Germany just has mhd (mindest haltbarkeits datum) meaning the day until which it HAS TO BE edible. You can still eat it after that day but then the insurance wont pay if you get sick

  34. Thanks for the video, Dean!This is really very important topic which people should more discuss to avoid dumping huge amount of food

  35. how come some cookies say they are good for over a year and has no preservatives. How is it possible for a cookie that contains dairy like eggs and milk last over a year??

  36. Review on Vox chips

    Cuddles the Cat
    1 star
    The chips are good, but the bag is mostly air.

    (I just saw Vox chips on this video and thought of reviews for it)

  37. I love going to Asian grocery stores. They still have the American label, but it's basically useless. The Chinese label has everything I want: Calories, Calories from fat, carb, protein, percent of total for all three, the estimated shelf life, along with storage instructions.

    I hate how in American grocery stores it only says refrigerate if it must be, and it's on any fking side of the box. That means I have to literally thoroughly read every word on the box to realize that it doesn't need to be refrigerated, and I still have to worry "what if I didn't find the keep refrigerated label?". Chinese label says "Cool dry place" right after the nutrition info, always in the same place.

    Also fking annoying is that I constantly have to calculate "1g carb/protein is 4 calories", and then still occasionally divide by the total to get percents. WHY would I ever want GRAMS? Not calories??

    I also like that when you read "4 months" as the shelf life, you understand it's more of an estimation. Seeing a date seems scary. But if it's 4.5 months after and it says 4 months you rightfully decide "Yeah probably fine". Especially because it's not uncommon for foods to spoil or mold before the best by anyway. You just accept it's an estimation

  38. 3:35 NO. If I'm working at a grocery store and have to look at a shelf of hundreds of eggs for ones that past sell by I am NOT scanning each and every one of them!

  39. Seems like you'd have to be pretty stupid to not understand date labels. Then again, we're talking about America here…

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