California Assemblyman Targets Food Expiration Labels

CALIFORNIA ASSEMBLYMAN TARGETS FOOD EXPIRATION LABELS

A California Assemblyman wants to answer the question that has vexed consumers for decades: when can we actually get rid of the food in our refrigerators and pantries?

David Chiu of San Francisco has proposed legislation which would address expiration label dates on food. Current labels simply refer to these products as some variation of “best by” or “sell by”.

None of this is federally regulated and is determined at the manufacturer’s discretion. Basically, it is a close approximation of when the manufacturer believes the product is at its best quality.

Under Chiu’s proposal, one of two choices would be available to manufacturers in California: either “best if used by” to indicate when it is at its best quality, or “expires on” to indicate extremely perishable food items (which would give consumers a better idea of when to throw items out).

The idea would be to eliminate a great deal of food waste that society accumulates simply because we believe it’s no longer useful.

This proposed legislation has no precedent in the United States. If passed, it would be the first of its kind in the country.

David Chiu estimates that it would make a great impact on California’s household food waste:

“We want to address the dating-label confusion to make situations that are better for consumers, businesses and the environment — and particularly the millions of people that go hungry every night.”

According to Dana Gunders, a scientist for the Natural Resources Defense Council, people don’t get sick from aging food. She says that food contaminated with E.coli, salmonella, or other pathogens is usually the culprit, and that the importance should be placed on how well the food is handled and stored.

Currently, infant formula is the only thing on the market nationally which is required to have a strict expiration date. Many states have laws on expiration dates for particular foods, but they vary state-to-state and only address a few more vulnerable foods. Additionally, some states limit when food can be donated, usually not past its sell-by date.

It’s difficult to say how much of an impact Chiu’s legislation would make on the state’s food waste, how much it would cost to implement, and if it will even be embraced by his fellow legislators or the general public. What do you think? Do you believe government should even be involved in an issue like this?

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