The 'Sell By' Dates on Food Might Be Entirely Eliminated

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At this point in your life, there's a good chance you've realized that the 'sell by' or expiration dates on food packaging does little more than fatten trashcans with perfectly good food. Well, it turns out two of the most influential groups in the food industry have come to a similar conclusion, and now, they're finally trying to do something about it.

As a report by NPR explains, food companies and manufactures print 'expires by' or 'sell by' dates on their products in hopes that you'll eat them while they're freshest, not because the food actually expires. Despite this, you've likely been among the millions of consumers who have thrown out that old cup of yogurt or box of spring mix that lingered in your fridge beyond the prescribed date and thereby contributed to the world's immense food waste problem. In other words, dumping what might have been perfectly good food in the trash out of an abundance of caution.

Fortunately, that could soon change. The Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute are both advising their members -- major food makers and retailers -- to completely do away with typical labels like 'sell by' or 'expires on' and replace it with two standard labels. One would be a "best if used by" date for most foods and the other would be a "use by" date label on food products that might become unsafe to eat over time; for example, raw seafood, according to the report.

Although it's unclear if the food manufacturers and retailers will adopt the suggested labeling, the groups' push appears to align with a guidance document for meat and dairy product labeling issued by the USDA last year, which as the report explains, called for a universal "best if used by" label. With any luck, food waste will decrease due to the changes, but considering the current state of affairs in the world, well, you probably shouldn't bet on it. 

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Tony Merevick is Cities News Editor at Thrillist and often disregards the sell by date on packaging anyway. Send news tips to and follow him on Twitter @tonymerevick.