NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Best by, use by, and sell by. They're all measurements of expiration on foods you see, but what do they actually mean? According to the National Resource Defense Council, nine out of 10 Americans are confused by the labels, and it leads to food waste.
For every four bags of groceries a family buys, they end up throwing one away, according to Consumer Reports. One of the few places without expiration dates on their food is farmer's markets.
Charles Jackson works for Hancock Family Farm at the Nashville Farmer's Market, and he said while their food is fresh, it comes at a cost. They have to throw food away if it's not fresh, as they don't want to pass on that food to a consumer.
"On days when it's real hot like 90 degrees, it does affect a lot of the produce," Jackson said. “We don’t want nothing that’s bad around here. We want to get rid of it, get it out of here, have fresh produce.”
When it comes to food waste, whether it be from the farm or in the household, 650 pounds of food is thrown out each year per person in North America, according to the UN.
While many Americans are conscious about the issue and try to waste as little as possible, the reality is, most Americans waste.
A study by Ohio State University showed that while people anticipate they'll eat the food they buy, they only eat about 44% of vegetables they buy, 40% of fruit, and 43% of dairy products. The rest goes in the trash.
The problem is, much of that food doesn't need to be thrown away, but the best by, use by, and sell by date, as well as other factors, lead the average family to throw away $1,500 worth of food that's perfectly good to eat each year.
The United Nations is hoping to cut the amount of food waste in half, as not only is it wasteful when it comes to food and money, but they also say it's contributing to global climate change.
The best advice experts have is to simply be aware of what's in your refrigerator, and try to eat it in a timely manner.
The World Resources Institute (WRI) also put out a 10-step plan to cut food waste in half by 2030. You can read their plan here.