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USDA recommends eating months-old food, using FoodKeeper app to reduce food waste


FoodKeeper

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(NaturalNews) Each year in the U.S., literally billions of pounds of good food are thrown away because consumers are unsure about the freshness or safety of many items in their refrigerators and cupboards. The USDA estimates that as much as 21 percent of the country's available food is not consumed. This equates to a whopping 36 pounds of food per person wasted every month.

The USDA, Cornell University and the Food Marketing Institute have created a new application to help consumers understand how different storing methods affect a product's shelf life. This could help maximize the storage life of the foods and drinks we keep at home. The app includes a useful calendar and alarm feature designed to remind you when to consume certain items so you don't forget to eat them before they expire.

Are expiration dates correct?

One of the biggest questions this news brings up is whether those expiration dates are wrong or overly cautious. Is it just a ploy on the part of the food industry to make us throw out perfectly good food so they can sell us more and thus increase profits exponentially? Or is it a well-founded fear based on the liabilities of very real threats of food poisoning? If you or anyone you know has ever suffered from food poisoning, you will likely err on the side of caution with or without the USDA's FoodKeeper app.

The USDA provided a video in which one official explains, "Many products may have a sell-by date of say April 1 but they could be good in your pantry for another 12 or 18 months. And by throwing those out, what you're doing, is you're contributing to food waste in the United States." The video showed boxes of dried pasta to illustrate this point.

Understanding the terms

The terms "Best Before Date", "Best By" and "Best if Used By" should not be confused with "Expiration Date" or "Sell By Date". EatByDate.com is trying to educate people about true shelf life to weed through the confusing terms and prevent us from throwing out food that is still safe to consume.

According to Eatbydate.com, the "Best Before Date" is what the manufacturer deems to be the last date on which a product's flavor or quality is best. As noted above, the product can still be enjoyed after the "best before date." Additionally, the manufacturer might call this the "Best if Used By" date or the "Best By" date, which indicates that the quality of food might diminish after that date, but it is still good to eat and the shelf life is still active.

The USDA's blog describes some of the FoodKeeper's features:
  • Find specific storage timelines for the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry, depending on the nature of the product;
  • Get cooking tips for cooking methods of meat, poultry and seafood products;
  • Note in your devices' calendar when products were purchased and receive notifications when they are nearing the end of their recommended storage date
The app was released on April 7th to coincide with World Health Day and also to raise awareness about the Food Waste Challenge program created by the USDA and the EPA.

If you are not comfortable with following the USDA's recommendation to eat food 18 months beyond the "Best Buy" dates, here are some simple tips for keeping food fresher for a longer period of time:
  • Use "green" storage. Green Bags are designed to keep foods that are refrigerated fresher for a longer period of time. These should keep your produce edible for much longer than a normal storage bag.
  • Start preserving, canning, and pickling. Canning and pickling preserves fresh produce for an extended time and helps you buy in season for less.
  • Dry fruits and vegetables. Use a food dehydrator to create dried fruits and vegetables. Once dried, the fruits and vegetables will last exponentially longer. These make great snacks. They can also be used in salads or other dishes for added flavor.

Sources:

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com

http://www.eatbydate.com

http://farmfutures.com

http://www.organicauthority.com

http://blogs.usda.gov

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