Scott Nash wanted to prove that we waste too much food, so he ate food past their sell-by, consume-by, and expiry dates for a year. While he certainly went a little extreme, he did make a good point: we don’t truly understand these labels, and this lets us throw away more food than necessary. Nash lived to tell the tale, so perhaps some expired foods are still okay to eat.
Many experts actually agree with Nash, and they urge people to learn about different food labels. According to a study published last month, food health experts found that consumers frequently misunderstand the labels on food products. This has a direct correlation to the amount of food discarded per household.
The study found that84% of consumers throw away their food if the packaging states that the “best if used by” label is close to the current date. In fact, 1/3 of the participants assumed they were federally regulated, which is actually not true.
According to Eater, Nash wanted to show that some of these dates are arbitrary and probably a ploy by manufacturers to get consumers to buy more. He spent an entire year fearlessly eating food past their expiry dates, and he did not die from consuming any of them.
Nash agrees that some items really go bad or get damaged, but he found that the majority of the foods that were past their “expiry” dates were still good to eat. Among the expired foods he consumed were tortillas a year past the date, meats a few weeks old, and an eight-month-old yogurt he found at the back of the fridge.
Nash’s experiment agreed with the food experts' study. The labels, he found, were the most confusing part of the experience.
"They’re very vague," Nash told Munchies. "What does ‘expire’ mean? There is ‘best by,’ there is ‘sell by,’ ‘best if used by.’ I just think there’s no consistency.”
Many consumers probably get confused, just like Nash, when assessing the safety of packaged food. It’s a curious thing, because fresh produce doesn’t have these arbitrary dates, and we usually just estimate whether or not they’re still good to eat. For some reason, manufactured food suddenly has strict rules when it comes to shelf life. You can be the judge of whether or not to eat that old yogurt, but it’s probably best to avoid it if it’s moldy.