Wait, don’t go by the expiration date?

We’ve all been there. You scramble like mad to get home and get a decent dinner on the table that includes a salad, and then you reach into the refrigerator for your one remaining bottle of salad dressing.

Oh no! The bottle expired Nov. 24, 2013 — roughly four months ago. What do you do? Gnosh through an undressed salad like a giant tortoise of the Galapagos Islands? Risk the salad dressing and a potential gut bomb that comes with eating oodles of spoilage microorganisms that you so do not want in your life? Can you fit an exploding gut bomb in your already tight schedule that may or may not include a bus tour that features that one tiny bathroom at the back of the bus? Do you want to be the guy who takes forever in that bathroom?

A recent study by the Natural Resources and Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic suggest we all need to calm down about those food label expiration dates.

In a release announcing the study, the groups state: “Here’s a superbly-kept secret: All those dates on food products — sell by, use by, best before — almost none of those dates indicate the safety of food, and generally speaking, they’re not regulated in the way many people believe.

“The current system of expiration dates misleads consumers to believe they must discard food in order to protect their own safety. In fact, the dates are only suggestions by the manufacturer for when the food is at its peak quality, not when it is unsafe to eat.”

The groups suggest that U.S. consumers and businesses needlessly trash approximately $165 billion worth of perfectly good, edible food because we believe we should to protect our health from unsafe food.

In the release, the groups outline the current shortcomings of the current date labeling system, and suggestions to improve them. They have also created a nifty infographic that details the best use of a refrigerator to help minimize food waste.

In a related story, the LA Times published an article on the 10 foods you can eat past the expiration date.

For a look at Neogen’s test to detect any possible spoilage microorganisms in food before the products leave the manufacturer, click here.

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