We’ve all experienced it. You go to the kitchen, reach for a bag of chips that have been sitting in corner of your cupboard for a while, and just as you are about to open the bag, you glance at the “Best by” date that is printed along the fold - expired! You toss the entire bag in the trash without a second glance.

"Best by" date large contributor to food waste

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, about a third of food produced in the United States is wasted. Food industry leaders are now saying that the “best by” date that is required to be printed by all food manufacturers could be huge contributing factor to this high number of wasted food, as consumers are disposing of food that is not necessarily bad.

"Best if used by" date and "Use by" date

There has been much confusion about what the “best by” date really means. The real purpose of the date is to help manufacturers convey the freshness of their product. It really just means that before this date, the product is at the prime of its freshness and quality. One could equate this to an apple. While there is a certain window where an apple is at its prime ripeness, that is not to say that one cannot eat an apple when it is overripe. It may be past its most optimal window for freshness and flavor, but it is still a perfectly good apple to eat.

The Food Marketing Institute and Grocery Manufacturing Association hopes to standardize these labels by 2018, to avoid confusion and hopefully cut down on waste.

Soon we could be seeing two dates one that is a “best if used by” date, which will indicate when a product is at its freshest, and a separate “use by” date, which is the actual date consumers should follow when deciding whether or not to toss their food.

That being said, there is one product that consumers should always follow the dates for and that is baby formula. Mary Beth Russell, a registered dietician from Avera Heart Hospital, warns “Parents should never use baby formula after the date on the package.”