Reduce Food Waste: What Food Expiration Dates Really Mean – Infographic

by deborah on March 9, 2017 · 8 comments

in Green living, Health & Wellness, healthy living, Living Green, Living Green

Reduce Food Waste: What Food Expiration Dates Really Mean - Infographic

How often do you throw away food?

In the United States, $218 billion is spent every year on food that is never eaten.

Many people swear by the labeling on their food and if it the date has passed the food

ends up in the bin.

You might think to yourself that it isn’t the worth the risk to eat “expired” food, but

the truth is that food labeling is an extremely flawed system and many people do not

understand the real meaning behind the dates.


“Did you know that 33% of the

world’s food is wasted and lack of

knowledge about expiry dates

plays a big role in that?”


It’s time to clear up the confusion.

For example, the best-before-date does not mean the food is gone off, it simply means that

the manufacturer of the product cannot completely guarantee the products quality.

It has absolutely nothing to do with whether the food is safe to eat or not.

Reduce Food Waste: What Food Expiration Dates Really Mean - Infographic

It is critical for you to educate yourself, friends and family members about the meaning of

food labels, test the food yourself and take initiative to make a difference in the way food

is labeled.

Let’s face it, edible food is a terrible thing to waste.


“Expiration dates do not

inform customers whether

food is safe to eat or not.”


It seems that misconceptions surrounding this issue are contributing to the startling

statistic that 33% of the world’s food is wasted from plough to plate.

Of course, there are simple steps we can take to minimize food waste.

Shopping for fresh produce at your local farmer’s market or favorite local store–

and only buying what you and your family will be able to consume in a few days–is one

wise way to reduce the amount of wasted food in your home.

Storing your food properly is another way to reduce food waste once the food is

in your home.

Freeze what you don’t plan to eat soon to preserve nutrients and avoid spoilage.

Use your senses to test whether food is edible.

Don’t toss bruised or blemished produce. You can transform bruised or wilted foods

by cooking them.

For example, turn soft tomatoes into pasta sauce, puree wilted carrots or celery into a sauce,

soup or stew; toast stale bread into croutons; freeze soft bananas and blend into ice cream, etc.

Reduce Food Waste: What Food Expiration Dates Really Mean - Infographic

Organize the food in your fridge and pantry. Store newer foods in the back and put

food that may perish soon — or that’s been in there longest — in the front, and add them to

your meal plans.

Compost un-repurposed food such as fruit and veggie peels, eggshells, tea bags, fruit pits,

and the like instead chucking it into the trash.

Make compost to use in your garden or find a local compost drop, like a community garden

or farmers’ market.

You can donate some expired food items. Although most food banks don’t want

damaged or bulging cans, some food banks will accept expired food, and others won’t —

so check to find out what the policy is at your local food bank.

For example, certain food banks maintain a list of Food Shelf Extended Dates, indicating

exactly which“expired” foods, including canned items, it accepts.

Also, some surplus grocery stores and food-salvage stores actually specialize in such products.

Reduce Food Waste: What Food Expiration Dates Really Mean - Infographic

Or just eat it!

Of course, if the cans show signs of problems — bulges, dents along the seams, etc. —

you won’t want to keep them.

But if the only issue is the date on the package, the food might be safe to eat.


According to the USDA:  

“A ‘Best if Used By (or Before)’ date is

recommended for best flavor or quality.

It is not a purchase or safety date.”


According to John Ruff, president of the Institute of Food Technologies…

“Most products are safe to eat long after their expiration date–that’s because it’s not the

food that sat on the shelf too long that makes you sick, it’s the food that got contaminated

with salmonella or listeria bacteria, or disease-causing strains of E. coli.

And that food could easily have arrived in the store only yesterday.

In 40 years, in eight countries, if I think of major product recalls and food poisoning

outbreaks, I can’t think of [one] that was driven by a shelf-life issue. Canned food,

in particular, can stay safe for a really long time.”

Dr. Ted Labuza, a professor of food science at the University of Minnesota explains that…

“Foods can remain safe to consume for some time beyond sell-by and even use-by dates provided

they are handled and stored properly.  Canned foods and shelf-stable goods like salad dressings

can be consumed for years beyond their expiration dates.

While their quality might suffer — for example, emulsified dressings may split — they will not pose

a safety hazard unless contaminated. Apart from baby formula and certain types of baby foods,

product dating is not even required by federal regulations.”

What Food Expiry Dates Really Mean

Reduce Food Waste: What Food Expiration Dates Really Mean - Infographic

Check out the infographic below from  which explains valuable

information about food labels and expiration dates–and what they really mean so we can

stop wasting so much food!

What Food Expiry Dates Really Mean?

Embedded from LakeshoreCC

Infographic source:  


What are your thoughts about food expiration dates?

What do you do to reduce food waste in your home?

Share your thoughts and comments with us.


“Shared on Waste Less Wednesday”


“Shared on Thank Goodness It’s Monday”

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

OlegT March 9, 2017 at 5:07 am

There are many applications for the calculation of the expiration date, best app is


Leanna March 10, 2017 at 11:19 pm

This is unbelievable. I routinely try to go through my pantry and place newer items to the back. But life happens and things get moved around. About twice a year I would go through my pantry and toss out everything stale dated for safety reasons.

Going forward I will do a more thorough survey of the quality of the food before tossing. Thanks for the education.


Indu March 11, 2017 at 4:03 pm

Great article! I couldn’t agree with you more! Every time I go to the grocers I wonder about this waste happening in our county and how there is so much poverty in the rest of the world. You are absolutely right about canned products being mostly safe even after expiration. As you advise, we generally buy 80% of fresh produce and we buy this every week so that way there is less waste. And pantry items like snacks etc also I try to buy only small packages at a time so that if the kids outgrow a particular brand, I am not stuck with a whole bag of them. Another pet peeve of mine is the waste of halloween candies! I feel that no one eats all the candies that are being produced.! And all that effort and costs could be put into making something more healthy and useful! thank you for this article.


Katy SkipTheBag March 11, 2017 at 6:15 pm

There is always so much confusion about these dates! Thank you for such good information about them and for sharing on the Waste Less Wednesday Blog Hop!


Audrey March 11, 2017 at 9:26 pm

Don’t toss bruised or blemished produce. – This is a huge pet peeve of mine in general. Most stores only sell “pretty produce” anything oddly shaped (a twisted carrot for example) are thrown away before they even get to the store. We have selected breed the flavor and nutrition out of our food.

Thanks for sharing on #FridayFrivolity


Rosie (@greenrosielife) March 13, 2017 at 2:51 am

I get both sad and angry at so much food waste – sad because so many people are so distanced from their food that they so not know when it is no longer safe to eat or what to do with food that is anything less that “perfect” looking and angry that this situation is getting worse. #WasteLessWednesday

I run a monthly blog hop called Going Green on my blog (the first say of every month) and would love to see you link up if you wanted to!


Amber Harrop March 13, 2017 at 5:45 pm

I always use my freezer to save food and I Meal plan to make sure I only buy what I need.


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