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Consumers Should Ignore 'Sell By' Dates on Food Products

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- That yogurt in your fridge must be bad.  It’s a day past the “sell by” date.

Well, you’re probably wrong to toss it out, according to a new study by Harvard Law School's Food Law and Policy Clinic and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Americans are pulling the trigger too soon on throwing out food because of expiration dates, the researchers argue.  In fact, nine out of 10 people will occasionally get rid of a perfectly edible product because they mistakenly think the “sell by” date means the food is no longer fit for consumption.

The study also reveals a family of four will lose from $275 to $455 annually on food that goes in the trash.  Overall, that's $160 billion of wasted grub every year.

So, what’s the solution?  Lead author Emily Broad Lieb says it’s time for “a standardized, commonsense date labeling system that actually provides useful information to consumers.”

Among the recommendations, make the “sell by” date invisible to buyers since it’s really information to be shared by the manufacturer and retailer.

Also, the labeling system needs to differentiate between safety and quality-based dates.

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