Why That Sell-By Date on Your Food Is Total BS — And Americans Aren't Using It, Anyway

Why That Sell-By Date on Your Food Is Total BS — And Americans Aren't Using It, Anyway
Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

If you're more likely to evaluate the edibility of the questionable food in your fridge by giving it a tentative whiff than by checking its expiration date, a new survey says you're not alone.

According to research funded by 360couponcodes.com, 31% of Americans reported eating expired food to make groceries last longer and to save money. The study also found that 42% of participants said they cut spending by purchasing used clothes while 25% have risked driving a car they knew was unsafe. 

But is eating expired goods a cost-saving solution that will result in a stomachache? 

Read more: How Long Do Leftovers Last? Here's the Lowdown on Your Seamless Order's Expiration Date

Source: Giphy

"Many products may have a sell-by date of say April 1 but they could be good in your pantry for another 12 or 18 months," Chris Bernstein, Department of Agriculture's food safety education staff member, said in a video in April 2015. "And by throwing those out, what you're doing, is you're contributing to food waste in the United States." 

On average, each person wastes about 36 pounds of food per month, accounting for 21% of all available food in the country. What's more, Consumer Reports determined that for every 1 dollar Americans spend on food, 10 cents of it gets tossed away. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture doesn't regulate the "sell-by," "best by" or the "use by" dates that appear on food products, but they did create an app as a guide to how long more than 400 food and drink items will keep.

But all things considered, using your best judgment will probably do it. Just don't drink the curdled milk.

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Marie Solis

Marie is a staff writer with a focus in feminist issues. Her writing has appeared in Gothamist and the Awl. You can reach her at marie@mic.com.

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