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Are you throwing away perfectly good food?

4:09 PM, Oct 8, 2013   |    comments
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NEW YORK - It turns out those "sell by" and "use by" dates may be costing you big money.

Go to the grocery store and you'll see many dates having to do with alleged expirations for food.

For mother-of-two Jennifer McAdoo, it means tossing anything past the date so her family does not get sick. In fact, Americans chuck 160 billion pounds of food every year. An average family of four throws away about $1,560.

But hang on, a lot of that "out of date" food is perfectly good. In fact, a new study from Harvard University and the NRDC finds that those "sell by" dates are confusing and misleading.

"People think these are expiration dates. They think if they eat the food after this date they're gonna get sick. But it's completely not true," Emily Broad Lieb with the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic said.

Broad Lieb is the lead author of the study. She says, food can be totally safe well past the date.

"[The sell by or use by date] has nothing to do with safety at all. It's just a manufacturer's best guess of when that food is gonna be the freshest and at the best quality," Broad Lieb said.

In most cases, if someone eats the food past the date posted on the product, they are not going to get sick.

"There's not been a single instance of foodborne illness or food poisoning linked with people eating food after that date," Broad Lieb said.

All of this is a game changer for McAdoo who says she is going to hold onto her food longer now.

There are a few products with actual expiration dates on them. They will say "exp." One of them is infant formula, and it is very tightly controlled by the federal government.

Also, consumers should pay attention to meats and fresh milk as they are considered pretty accurate.

(Copyright © 2013 NBC Universal, All Rights Reserved)

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