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Harvard Study Connects Food Waste To Food Expiration Dates

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Diane Stern is co-anchor of “The WBZ Afternoon News,” broadcast on WBZ...
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BOSTON (CBS) — A recent study done by Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic and the Natural Resource’s Defense Council exposes the truth behind expiration dates and offers suggestions to food manufacturers on how to better set these dates.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Diane Stern reports

“The dates are undefined in law and have nothing to do with safety,” said Emily Broad Leib, lead author of the study, titled The Dating Game, and director of Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic. “They are just a manufacturer suggestion of peak quality.”

Leib researched how manufacturers set the dates on their food products, discovering that some manufacturers conduct taste tests that will factor into the expiration date.

“[Manufacturers are] picking dates that are really protective over their brand, which is fine,” Leib said. “It’s just important for consumers to know that.”

The study looked at rates of waste, finding that 90% of consumers throw they food away on the sell by date. Leib said consumers are unaware that these dates are not necessarily linked with food safety. As a result, about 160 billion tons of food are wasted every year.

“Consumers need to take that extra minute to actually look at their food and smell their food and make an assessment,” Leib said. “When we just rely on these dates and throw everything away after the date, we’re leading to really high rates of food waste.”

The Dating Game suggests the need for standardization across the country.

“We are pushing for a coherent, reliable and consistent system for consumers that can help them really understand what the dates mean and standardize across products and across dates,” Leib said.

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