Confused by the "sell by," "use by" and "best before" labels on the foods sold at grocery stores? So are more than 90 percent of Americans, who prematurely discard edibles because they have misinterpreted the dates stamped on the products, according to a report released Wednesday.
Many consumers read an item's sell-by date as an indicator of when the food will spoil. But it's an inaccurate assumption, according to a study conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Harvard Law School's Food Law and Policy Clinic.
Manufacturers use sell-by dates to help retailers manage their inventory. It encourages stores to sell a product within a specific time frame so that the item still has a shelf life once it's purchased.
Not even the common "best before" and "use by" labels indicate a deadline after which products go bad, according to researchers. Instead, they are producer estimates of how long the food will be at peak quality.