Chances are you glance at the expiration date on food before tossing it into your shopping cart. The problem is, those dates are "almost completely arbitrary" and get stamped on there under a system that is "remarkably haphazard," complain the editors at Bloomberg View. They argue that it's time for a national standard, which would not only make food safer but would reduce the outrageous amount of perfectly good food that gets thrown out needlessly. Among the suggestions: Switch the wording to "freshest before" and standardize where it gets placed. It should also be made clearer to consumers this is not an "expiration date," and that food can be safely frozen long past the date.
"Food poisoning is a problem, of course," says the editorial. "But so is food waste—and by some estimates, Americans throw away 40 percent of the food they buy, or about 20 pounds per person per month." A national standard can work, as proven by the "Schumer box" on credit card offers that makes details about rates and penalties clearer. The food industry is leery of big changes, and Congress is reluctant to force the issue, which is "too bad. A more coherent and consistent labeling system makes sense for all Americans—including members of Congress," says the editorial. "After all, elected officials have to eat, too." Click to read the full piece. (Or read about a new market that specializes in food at or near its use-by date.)