Much of the food the U.S. produces ends up in a landfill. How much is the ‘expired food’ myth to blame?

Millions of Americans struggle with food insecurity each year, while food waste continues to be a major problem. Forty percent of food produced in America ends up in a landfill or is otherwise wasted. Part of the problem may stem from the “lie of ‘expired’ food,” Vox’s Alissa Wilkinson reports. Not only do expiration dates rarely correspond to food actually spoiling or expiring, but researchers have found that expiration dates are also “haphazard and confusing.” Wilkinson writes that everything we assume about date labels is probably wrong. Date labeling isn’t linked directly to scientifically backed safety standards, but rather “more subjective, voluntary, and nebulous standard of ‘freshness.'” Moreover, date labels are not standardized, have almost nothing to do with food safety, and indicate information that can vary from state-to-state and producer-to-producer. Dates are also inconsistent across brands of the same food product. So what are consumers to do? Short of a radical culture shift in America’s “consumer mindset,” Wilkinson suggests educating yourself and changing the way you shop for food. Or follow this catchy U.K. slogan: “Look, smell, taste, don’t waste.”

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