While we specialize in food training courses and online HAACP classes, we also monitor food industry news that affects general consumers as well. We recently came across a discussion concerning a USDA suggestion that food should be labeled with a best-by date rather than a sell-by date. According to the USDA, sell-by dates create confusion among consumers, and they estimate that nearly 30 percent of food waste from consumers and retailers arises from products that are labeled with a sell-by date.
Food Training Courses and Sell-By Dates
During our study on this subject, we found some pros and cons of labeling product with a best-by date rather than a sell-by date. Many foods such as canned items, pasteurized products and dried fruits have a much longer shelf life than many raw or freshly prepared items. If you have ever taken the time to investigate the sell-by dates on canned goods, you will notice dates that are months or even years into the future. With dates so far ahead of the present, predicting exactly when it will no longer be fit for human consumption is nearly impossible.
We do not believe the USDA’s attention to this subject will focus on long-term sell-by dates, but rather that of proteins and packaged foods that spoil in a short period of time. This presents unique difficulties for companies that process meat, seafood and other proteins. If the USDA does recommend that use-by dates be included on labels, butchers, distribution facilities and seafood harvesters must now decide how long the consumer has to eat or cook the product that they buy.
One thing we would like to see if this becomes the standard is some guidelines from the USDA as to how producers of these kinds of foods can accurately predict a date by which a product must be used. There are many factors that go into how fast food spoils. A refrigeration temperature variation of a few degrees changes how long proteins remain safe to eat, especially sensitive seafood items. The way a grocer stores food can affect raw meat and produce and of course there is no way for food manufacturers to guess how a consumer will handle their food once they have purchased their groceries.
This may be a step in the right direction to reduce the amount of food that consumers waste, but it also brings up concerns as to how food training courses can teach producers can accurately label their product. If you have an opinion on this issue, feel free to leave your comments below.