New USDA food label guidelines aim to prevent food waste

This past week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released food labeling guidelines aimed at reducing the amount of good food that gets thrown out because people think it has gone bad.

Just about every packaged product in the grocery store has a date on it. Some say “best by,” “use by” or “sell by.”

Sasha Stashwick with the National Resource Defense Council said nine out of 10 shoppers are confused by the different dates.

“The average family is actually throwing away about $1,500 a year in food that is perfectly good to eat,” she said. 

To clear up confusion the U.S. Department of Agriculture now wants just one label -- “best if used by.” It’s asking egg, meat and dairy manufacturers to use it. 

The Grocery Manufacturers Association would not say if they plan to adopt the label, but did tell CBS News that “the food and consumer products industry is committed to providing consumers with the information they need to make informed decisions regarding the safety and quality of the products they purchase and consume.”

Stashwick said current labels and the new “best if used by” stamp are not an expiration date. 

“Typically those dates are just a manufacturers best guess on when food will be at its peak quality, they are really not an indicator about the safety of the food,” she said. 

She said said many foods, if stored properly, can last longer. For instance she said milk can last at least a week past the printed date, and eggs can still be good three to five weeks after purchased. 

Shopper Debbie Telson uses her own senses to tell if something has gone bad.

“By smell, and of course, you look inside the container, and if it’s moldy it’s gone bad,” she said. 

That cuts down on food waste and saves her money.