It's not you. Date labels on food make no sense.

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  • Published on:  Friday, June 22, 2018
  • Food labels don’t mean what you think they mean.

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    When people clean out their fridge, they look at whatever date is on the label and throw it in the trash if it’s past that date. But the chances are that you’re throwing out tons of perfectly good food because date labels on food are often really confusing.

    Food labels can mean many different things and often don’t give you any indication of whether the food is safe to eat or not. Many people assume that they’re federally regulated, but baby formula is the only product required to have consistent date labels. For everything else it’s up to the states to decide.

    This creates a confusing state-by-state patchwork of labels with everything from “use by” to “freshest before” to “sell by” to “packaged on.”

    And all this confusion causes us to waste tons of food every year. All the uneaten food waste costs Americans over $200 billion each year, and two thirds of that comes from households.

    If we came up with a unified, easy to understand date label system we could save money, food, and help the environment, all just by changing how we put date labels on the things we eat. is a news website that helps you cut through the noise and understand what's really driving the events in the headlines. Check out

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  • Vox


     a years ago +345

    Expiration dates aren’t the only confusing part of food packaging. Here’s why the “natural” food label on so many grocery store items is meaningless:

  • Sauce


     1 months ago

    At 2:28 Arkansas isn't on there :(

  • ginsengjin


     1 months ago

    That's why my mom keeps all refridgerated goods 5 years past the printed date.

  • yoyohe2006


     1 months ago

    2:29 no Massachusetts :(

  • first last

    first last

     2 months ago

    Watch as I needlessly throw away food for the camera to demonstrate how we needlessly throw away food. We can understand English, we don't need a visual example.

  • Apolline Charligny

    Apolline Charligny

     2 months ago

    As a certified french person, you need to know that "crème fraiche" is.... sour cream.

  • julka ?

    julka ?

     3 months ago

    when u live in germany and there is one sentence for the expiration date

  • Matt Suckow

    Matt Suckow

     3 months ago

    Why doesn't your map doesn't have Massachusetts on it?

  • KN791


     4 months ago

    Outside of the States, what I think most people are confused about is the date format.

  • Nyarome 2

    Nyarome 2

     4 months ago


  • Alex H

    Alex H

     5 months ago

    Seems like you'd have to be pretty stupid to not understand date labels. Then again, we're talking about America here...

  • Terd Nugget

    Terd Nugget

     6 months ago

    It's sour cream

  • WOW !

    WOW !

     6 months ago

    this is why i don't eat food

  • Vianca Di Angelo

    Vianca Di Angelo

     6 months ago

    So Mexican parents were right all along

  • Johnny Quasar

    Johnny Quasar

     6 months ago +1

    I once at pizza that was in my fridge for three weeks. I got very sick

  • Matt Harlan

    Matt Harlan

     6 months ago

    I laughed so hard at the "forget about it" moment

  • Anonymous bub

    Anonymous bub

     6 months ago +2

    My dad kept a bottle of relish for 2 and a half years. It was fine.

  • Nicholas Pipitone

    Nicholas Pipitone

     6 months ago

    3:35 NO. If I'm working at a grocery store and have to look at a shelf of hundreds of eggs for ones that past sell by I am NOT scanning each and every one of them!

  • Nicholas Pipitone

    Nicholas Pipitone

     6 months ago

    I love going to Asian grocery stores. They still have the American label, but it's basically useless. The Chinese label has everything I want: Calories, Calories from fat, carb, protein, percent of total for all three, the estimated shelf life, along with storage instructions.

    I hate how in American grocery stores it only says refrigerate if it must be, and it's on any fking side of the box. That means I have to literally thoroughly read every word on the box to realize that it doesn't need to be refrigerated, and I still have to worry "what if I didn't find the keep refrigerated label?". Chinese label says "Cool dry place" right after the nutrition info, always in the same place.

    Also fking annoying is that I constantly have to calculate "1g carb/protein is 4 calories", and then still occasionally divide by the total to get percents. WHY would I ever want GRAMS? Not calories??

    I also like that when you read "4 months" as the shelf life, you understand it's more of an estimation. Seeing a date seems scary. But if it's 4.5 months after and it says 4 months you rightfully decide "Yeah probably fine". Especially because it's not uncommon for foods to spoil or mold before the best by anyway. You just accept it's an estimation

  • bundycamp


     7 months ago +1

    I love throwing away food.