The "sell-by," "use-by" and "best-before" dates on fresh and packaged foods confuse consumers and contribute to unnecessary food waste. People tend to think of these dates as expiration dates, or the date that the food goes bad and becomes dangerous to consume. They don’t realize that the dates are arbitrary. Fresh foods can be good for many days after the stamped-on dates, and packaged foods can be fine for months or years after the date.

The Waste & Resources Action Program, a nonprofit organization based in the United Kingdom, just released a report that recommends one simple change in these dates, reports Eco Localizer.

Extending the sell-by date of fresh and packaged foods in markets by just one day would eliminate 250,000 tons of wasted food every year in the U.K. alone. That’s a staggering 50 million pounds of food that doesn’t have to be thrown away.

And that’s just in the U.K. If we did the same here in the United States, imagine the savings in food, money and resources. I’m sure we would save hundreds of millions of pounds of food.

Sell-by dates are arbitrary enough that the former president of Trader Joe's, Doug Rauch, is planning a restaurant/grocery store hybrid that prepares foods that are just past their sell-by dates. 

You don’t have to wait for food manufacturers to make this simple change. You can choose to ignore the date on the food you have in your kitchen and extend it for one more day or more. Using a website like Still Tasty can help determine just how long past the date stamped on a product you can consume it. And, of course, you can use your own senses. If a food looks, smells or feels as if it has gone bad, toss it — no matter what date is stamped on it.

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Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.