The U.S. has no federal standard for 'sell-by,' 'use-by' or 'best by' dates.
PARAMUS, N.J. -- Officials in Congress are taking new steps to standardize and improve food date labels to reduce food waste and help families save money on groceries.
Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., held a press briefing Monday at a New Jersey supermarket to push for changes in this expiration date system, as the U.S. has no federal standard for "sell-by," "use-by" or "best by" dates.
He said most date labels indicate when the manufacturer believes the product is fresh, which is not necessarily based on scientific food-safety considerations.
"Food manufacturers can pick a random date and game the system ... some of them probably want you to buy their food more often, so they put a date that may not be the actual date it goes bad," Gottheimer said.
Nutrition experts told our sister station WABC that those labels are leading to a major waste of food in this country.
"So many of us look at the date and get confused," said April Milevski, a registered dietitian. "We look at the date and throw it because we fear we might get sick."
The congressman is leading a bipartisan effort to standardize expiration date terminology across the country.
"You're telling me a recently purchased rice or pretzels is dangerous to consume on the shelf date? How about that salt and pepper?" He said. "You're gonna throw that out because suddenly someone came up with a random date on that?"
According to the FDA, 30 to 40 percent of all food ends up in the garbage. That equates to 160 billion pounds -- or $218 billion worth of food -- each year.
The agency says consumers should not rely solely on date labels and should examine food even after the expiration date.