Researchers: Milk is still safe after "sell-by" date - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Researchers: Milk is still safe after "sell-by" date

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If you toss out your milk jug as soon as the sell-by date has passed, you may want to stop.

Ohio State University researchers say to hold on to your milk -- if it's pasteurized, it's safe to drink past its labeled date. 

Scientists in the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) say that the date labels on food significantly contribute to food waste because the labels serve as an indicator of shelf life, which is more closely related to food quality than safety. 

Brian Roe, a CFAES agricultural economics professor, conducted a study that asked 88 milk drinkers to sniff half-gallon jugs of milk that were 15 to 40 days past the day they were bottled. Some jugs were labeled with sell-by dates, while others were not. 

The study found that 64 percent of respondents said they would throw the milk out that had a date label, while only around 46 percent said they would throw the same milk out if they didn't know the sell-by date. 

"Date labeling doesn't tell you when a food will spoil," Roe said. "Consumers often view dates as if they indicated health or safety, but those dates are really just about the quality of a product determined by manufacturers... Pasteurized milk is safe past the sell-by date unless it has been cross-contaminated."

Roe said his study focused on milk because it is one of the most wasted food products in the United States, representing about 12 percent of consumer food waste by weight. 

The average American household spends more than $2,000 annually on wasted food, according to a study by the Natural Resources Defense Council. 

To save some money and prevent food waste, consider re-thinking what the labels on your food mean. 

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the "Best if used by-before" date indicates when a product will be of best flavor or quality. 

The "Sell-by" date tells the store how long to display the product for sale for industry management. It is not a safety date. 

The "Use-by" date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. It is not a safety date except when it was used on infant formula. 

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