Do ‘Best By’ Dates Really Matter?

Would you be open to eating food that has aged past the dubious “sell by/use by” date? Former president of Trader Joe’s, Doug Rauch, certainly hopes so. He is in the works of opening a new restaurant-grocery hybrid in Dorchester, Massachusetts called The Daily Table. They will sell produce and ready-made food at a low cost to the consumer. Here’s the kicker: it will utilize only recently expired foods.

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Utterly repulsed? Well hold up a minute. Most of the time “best if used by” dates are totally arbitrary. Just because a product “expired” yesterday doesn’t mean it is inedible today. These dates are merely suggestions and are, surprisingly, not even regulated. Harvard actually released an eye-opening report recently on food date labels, their vagueness, and the resulting massive effect they wreak on food waste in the US. In the US, 40 percent of all produced food is thrown out, whether it be on the farm, at the grocery store, or at home due to any number of reasons including expired “best by” dates, blemishes, overstocking, or legitimate rot. That is a massive number, one which clearly indicates that our society needs to shift its perspective on food.

Farmers throw out blemished produce because no one will buy them. But that should not be the case! Most of these throwaways are just as delicious as their unblemished brethren and could feed a lot of hungry people. Remember, cosmetically imperfect produce is just as wholesome and tasty as shiny, picturesque produce. Foods like that should not be wasted on such a large scale.

Inspired to extend the life of your food? Rauch suggests a very cold refrigerator or freezer to keep produce, milk, and even bread fresh well beyond the stamped date. That is surely one trick that will be put into use at The Daily Table. Rauch hopes that the restaurant, which will be affordable enough to compete with fast food giants, will encourage people who have less income to gravitate towards their more nutritious offerings. If The Daily Table is a success — if the food is tasty, nutritional, and affordable — and people can get over the idea of eating “expired” food, then perhaps we will be a small step closing to reducing our country’s massive food waste.

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Margaret M. F.
Margaret M. F.3 years ago

Thank-you for posting the article.

Deb Ryan
Deb Ryan3 years ago


Thomas W.
Thomas W.3 years ago


Karen G.3 years ago

thanks for sharing

LMj Sunshine

Thank you for info.

LMj Sunshine

Thank you for info.

Ros G.
Ros G.3 years ago

Thanks for the article

Fay Wouk
Fay Wouk3 years ago

I have always taken "best by" dates with a grain of salt (or a whole TBSP), and am none the worse for it.

Elizabeth O.
Elizabeth O.3 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Valerie A.
Valerie A.3 years ago

I use common sense