Grocery Store Open Near Me Right Now

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Grocery Store Open Near Me Right Now
Grocery Store Open Near Me Right Now

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Grocery Store Open Near Me Right Now

Grocery Store Open Near Me Right Now

Share All sharing options for: The ‘finished’ food lie and the devastating truth about America’s food waste problem

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You will know the routine. Every now and then, I go through my fridge, check the labels of the items and throw out anything that is a month, a week or maybe a few days past the date on the label. I could probably stop sniffling, but for my entire adult life, I thought the problem was obvious—my packet of jam or almond milk or shredded Italian cheese was “finished”—and the solution was simple: Into the trash it goes.

This habit is so ingrained that when I think about eating food that is past its date, I feel a little torn. I’ve only had food poisoning once or twice in my life, always from restaurants, but the thought still lingers in my mind: after a date, the food will make me sick. You’ll probably never catch me dumpster diving.

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I know, on some intellectual level, throwing away food is probably wrong. The statistics are devastating. Forty percent of the food produced in America is landfilled or otherwise wasted. This adds up. Each year, the average American family throws away somewhere between $1,365 and $2,275, according to a landmark 2013 study written by the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic and the Natural Resources Defense Council. It’s a huge financial loss for food manufacturers and retailers, who often have to give up odd-shaped produce or excess food that doesn’t sell.

It is also bad for the environment. The study found that 25 percent of US freshwater is used to produce food that is not consumed, and 21 percent of the input to our landfills is food, representing a 50 percent increase per capita since 1974. Right now, landfills are piled high. Spoiled food, most of which was perfectly edible — and some of which still is.

Moreover, I know that in a country where so much food is thrown away, about 42 million people may live with food insecurity and hunger. However, state-level regulations often make it difficult to donate food to food banks and other agencies.

Grocery Store Open Near Me Right Now

America has a food waste problem. But I’m rarely clear on how that translates to how I actually treat the food in my fridge. Because what can you do, right? When the date says it’s over, it’s over, right?

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Obviously, very wrong. The researchers found that “use by” dates—which rarely correspond to expired or spoiled foods—are often well-intentioned, but random and confusing. In other words, they are not fixed dates at all. And the general public’s misunderstanding of them contributes significantly to each of the factors I mentioned above: food waste, income waste, household waste and food insecurity.

But if you throw away food based on freshness labels, you’re not alone. It is a widespread practice. Chef, journalist and cookbook author Tamar Adler, author

, explains: “In the absence of culinary information, people assume that whatever information they are given must be the most important.” A big part of the problem is that most of us don’t really believe that we are in a position to decide whether food is good for us or not.

“It’s really hard to imagine that you should trust your nose and mouth,” Adler said. “Add to that a culture of facilitation and late-stage predatory capitalism, and well, we’re screwed.”

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The good news is that in the abstract, the problem won’t be that hard to fix. The downside is that solving the larger system around it takes time, education, and changes in our consumption habits. But the stakes are high for almost everyone involved — and understanding what those labels really mean and how to interact with them is a good place to start.

There are two important things to know about date labels on foods in the US: they are not standardized and they have almost nothing to do with food safety.

Date labels first began to appear in the decades after World War II, as American consumers increasingly moved away from shopping toward small grocers and farm and supermarket stores, with their rows of packaged and prepackaged options. Early on, manufacturers printed date codes on boxes and packages for the benefit of grocers so they had a guide to when to turn over their inventory. The label was not designed for consumers. But because shoppers wanted to buy the freshest food on the shelf, savvy people began publishing pamphlets that offered a guide to deciphering the code.

Grocery Store Open Near Me Right Now

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Eventually, manufacturers—seeing that buyers really wanted to know what these secret dates were—began to include more legible dates on packages, along with the month, day, and year. They saw it as a marketing gift. It was a way to attract customers and show that your food was fresh and delicious. Consumers loved it, and so-called “open date” labels became common. But they had little consistency.

And while the federal government made several attempts in the 1970s to enact laws that would standardize the meaning of these labels across the country, they failed. (The exception is infant formula, for which there are strict federal guidelines.) Instead, the burden fell on state (and sometimes local) legislatures, which passed widely varying laws, often based on voluntary industry standards. . A state may never require a label. Others may specify that the freshness label on the milk is 21 days after bottling. A third party can set the same date within 14 days. (My state, New York, has labeling laws, but the standards don’t list dates at all — although certainly many manufacturers still put date labels on their products, and different municipalities occasionally set their own guidelines.) State – Variations between states can be costly for manufacturers, who have to find ways to create multiple labels for multiple regions. But it also confuses consumers.

Even the labels are inconsistent. What the label actually represents varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. So you might have a “Best Buy” tag on one product, a “Sell By” tag on another, and a “Best If Used Before” tag on a third. These have different meanings, but the average consumer may not immediately understand or even notice that there is a difference.

What does “best” mean in this context? For products made with properly pasteurized dairy products, it is not a safety issue. Scott Olson/Getty Images

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Additionally, these dates may not be consistent across brands of the same food product—eg, peanut butter or strawberry jam. This is partly because they do not actually indicate when food is safe. Most packaged foods are good for weeks or months after the date. Ready and frozen products last for years. That packet of chips you forgot was a month old won’t kill you – it just might be a little less crunchy than you’d like. (The big exception is foods like deli meat and deli meat, which won’t be reheated before eating and can carry listeria in the manufacturing process—but that’s the exception, not the rule.) You can check the freshness of eggs by trying them. Float them in a glass of water (if they sink, that’s fine). Properly pasteurized milk, which is free from pathogenic microorganisms, should be good if it tastes and smells good. But many of us, with the best of intentions, just look at what the label says and throw out what’s out of date.

When I first realized that date marking was not directly tied to scientifically proven safety standards, but to a more subjective, arbitrary, and vague standard of “freshness,” I wondered if it was… well, kind of There was a scam. After all, consumers don’t benefit from throwing away food. Grocery stores lose money; Farmers lose potential sources of income. The only people who can benefit are the producers, and I can imagine an unscrupulous producer shortening the date of their food so that people sigh, throw away the half-eaten package that has “expired”, and go buy some more.

I asked

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