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Congress Tackles Murky Expiration Dates

A package of cream cheese is stamped "best if used by" with a date of July 2009. (Photo taken in 2012).

In the U.S., expiration dates on food can be a hot mess.

Terms like "sell by," "use by," "best before" have no clear meaning and cause consumers to waste food that's perfectly good for the table.

Each state currently has its own standards for how stores and companies should label dates on food.

Now, Congress has introduced a bill to standardize the language. Packages would read "best if used by" to indicate peak quality of shelf-stable products like macaroni and cheese, and "expires on" for foods like meat and eggs considered unsafe after a certain time.

Waste watchers say an estimated 40 percent of the American food supply goes to waste, and consumers toss more than $1,500 per household.

The bill would also prevent states from banning donations of foods past the "best if used by" date if still considered safe to eat.

Read More:

  • The Simple Labeling Update That Could Prevent Millions Of Tons Of Food From Going In The Trash (Washington Post)
  • Food Expiration Dates Will Finally Start Making Sense (Money)

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