Watch Now France vs Australia It’s not you. Date labels on food make no sense.


Food labels don’t mean what you think they mean.

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When people clean out their fridge, they look at whatever date is on the label and throw it in the trash if it’s past that date. But the chances are that you’re throwing out tons of perfectly good food because date labels on food are often really confusing.

Food labels can mean many different things and often don’t give you any indication of whether the food is safe to eat or not. Many people assume that they’re federally regulated, but baby formula is the only product required to have consistent date labels. For everything else it’s up to the states to decide.

This creates a confusing state-by-state patchwork of labels with everything from “use by” to “freshest before” to “sell by” to “packaged on.”

And all this confusion causes us to waste tons of food every year. All the uneaten food waste costs Americans over $200 billion each year, and two thirds of that comes from households.

If we came up with a unified, easy to understand date label system we could save money, food, and help the environment, all just by changing how we put date labels on the things we eat.

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97 thoughts on “Watch Now France vs Australia 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:

    1. Creme Fraische is “sour cream” in European (or rather in French, but it’s widely used in Europe). It means “fresh cream” so it totally sounds like the opposite of sour cream, but, you know… us Europeans have some weird ideas from time to time.
      Hope that this helped you out somewhat.

    2. Food packaging information is a mess, and a lot of “ingredients” shouldn’t even be allowed fo be added, especially without clear info on the product.

    3. MultiTarded you mistake 1 ingridient in a food for being a risk to food. Having some knowledge of Food Science, the only way some ingridients can be poisonous are if you eat a high enough dose; that being often far more than the human body can consume of that product.

      To be true, almost all food additives have helped food rather than hurt it, it just happens that common people automatically assume anything they can’t pronounce is dangerous.

  2. Not sure how much of this applies to Ireland. Here we pretty much have “sell by” and “use by”. I always go by the “use by” and depending on what it is, I can have a good idea whether the “use by” isto conservative or not. Milk and bread usually starts going off after it says, but canned food can keep long after the “use by” date.

  3. Because the FDA and USDA don’t care about our health but profit only. This is also why we can’t get any good medicine passed.

  4. In the wise words of my college roommate, “It’s a ‘best before’ date, not a ‘poison after’ date”. I still live by that saying to this day

  5. I HATE THROWING AWAY FOOD

    my brother the other day completely tossed an expensive box of pomegranate seeds from whole foods because it was 1 day past the date on the box….

    STOP THROWING AWAY PERFECTLY GOOD FOOD PEOPLE! BUY BRUISED FOOD! WE MAKE MORE THAN ENOUGH FOOD IN THE WORLD FOR THERE TO EVER BE HUNGER!!

  6. Where I come from I’ve never EVER seen any date labels stamped on foods that didn’t say “Expires on” or “EXP”. When I came to America I was quite baffled by the different types of date labels on foods. It’s ridiculous when you know the truth about them

  7. Well here in Brazil is very simple, all products have only two dates: the fabrication date and expiration date

  8. Wait… Who actually throws out food solely because of the packaging’s date? Maybe the upper middle class, and that’s still a maybe.

  9. Here in the Netherlands, on every product in the supermarket there is a text which says ‘at least edible until….’ or ‘edible until….’. I thought this was the case in ever country, but as just seen, it isn’t. I think it would be better if they applied this law in the US as well.

  10. I still think the difference between use by, sell by, and best by seem to be pretty self-evident. Leave it to Vox to get confused by something I understood in kindergarten.

  11. I say if frozen never expires ?sane with chocolate inless when you open its diff color. The main stuff thats true to expire is milk after 3 days, thawed out meat and definatley thawed out seafood. If you want breads to go way beyond exp date keep in fridge.

  12. THIS IS AN AD FOR THE NATIONAL RESOURCE DEFENSE COUNCIL!!! PROPAGANDA TO MAKE PEOPLE EAT SPOILED FOOD AND BUY LESS!!!!

  13. I don’t care, I buy almost expired on sale food all the time, it saves lots cash and I’m still alive.

  14. It’s so hard, I hate wasting but I’m so paranoid of eating spoiled food bc food poisoning is a bitchhhh?

  15. NYC says date labels? forget about it.
    But then wonders why they have a huge waste promblem.
    I wonder why??

  16. It’s a bit misleading to assume that if labels were fixed then no one would throw away food again. Some people are just in the habit of using their refrigerators to store food until becomes inedible, it doesn’t really matter what the label says.

  17. In the words of Frieda Berlin (Orange is the New Black) “use by dates are nothing more than a marketing gimmick”

  18. StillTasty is a wonderful site for figuring out how long food is safe for. I use that site for foods that are both in and out of date and it has been really useful!

  19. there is nothing misleading about “sell by” and “used by” if you have a grasp of the English language you could tell the difference.

  20. Me: *sees expired label on food*
    Mom: don’t eat that
    Me: *eats it anyways*
    *sees worms*
    *brushes them off and it’s anyways*

  21. As a Australian who moved to the US I’ve definitely found it way more confusing due to in Australia it being federal regulated and way more consistent

  22. The dates printed on your food packages are just a scam. Food is usually good for quite awhile after the date printed on them. Companies just want you to throw it out so you have to buy more.

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