Waste not, want not

A survey of 2,482 American adults conducted online by Harris Interactive for ShelfLifeAdvice.com, a Web site that provides shelf-life data on food products, found that 76 percent of U.S. consumers mistakenly believe certain refrigerated foods are unsafe to eat after the date printed on the packaging has passed, reports Progressive Grocer.

The survey asked which, if any, of 10 refrigerated food products were considered unsafe to eat past the printed package date. Almost half of the respondents believed eggs were one of these products, even though eggs stored in the refrigerator should last at least three to five weeks after the sell-by date.  The dating on milk was even more misunderstood than eggs, with 61 percent of respondents mistakenly believing the printed date is the final date milk can safely be consumed.

ShelfLifeAdvice.com estimates that if 61 percent of Americans needlessly discard just a quarter-gallon of milk each month, they would be wasting more than $700 million a year. Combining this figure with the other foods in the survey, billions are wasted by American households every year. According to a University of Arizona study funded by the USDA, Americans throw away more than 40 percent - about 29 million tons - of all the food the country produces each year, which has a significant environmental and economic impact.

"Food scientists agree that most foods, if stored properly, can be safely consumed for days or even weeks past the package date," said Joe Regenstein, professor of food science at Cornell University and a member of the ShelfLifeAdvice.com Board of Advisors. "The dates on food packages are very conservative; if the product was stored properly, it should last well beyond the date on the package."