A California state assemblyman wants to set guidelines for expiration dates on food packaging. Sara Duggan of the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Democratic Assemblyman David Chiu has proposed food labeling legislation that would establish guidelines on how food manufacturers express expiration dates, so California consumers can better understand how long they can safely hold onto food.
A recent report from ReFED found that Americans waste $218 billion worth of food on an annual basis. This happens not because the food has actually expired, but because consumer read the labels and assume it's gone bad. This report also estimates that standardizing expiration dates on labels can keep about 398,000 tons of food out of the landfills, reducing carbon emissions and saving billions of dollars. This would also help stock food banks with more food, because they'd be able to accept it for longer periods of time.
Chiu noted that Americans very rarely get sick from expired food. It's more common for pathogens like E. coli and salmonella to cause illness, and in those cases timing is rarely an issue. Currently, the only food label dates that are regulated are those for baby food. No other food labels are regulated in this way, and manufacturers use dates that are before actual expiration. If this legislation were to pass, the California Department of Public Health would regulate which foods get expiration dates, and what the actual dates would be.
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