California Bill Reduces Waste by Limiting “Sell By” Dates

The California home composting program, which started last year, is a huge project that aims to cut down on the amount of trash that ends up in the state’s landfills and the amount of greenhouse gases that are released by those facilities.

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that is released when banana peels, egg shells, and other organic waste break down. Landfills are the third biggest source of methane in California.

Even though the program is off to a rough start, more composting should start to cut down on one of the biggest sources of pollution.

But what if we wasted less food in the first place?

With help from the Natural Resources Defense Council and Californians Against Waste, Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin introduced a bill this year that would limit “sell by” dates and other labels that federal officials say often cause people to throw away cans, boxes of cereal, and other food that is still safe to eat.

The tweet below verifies the news:

The bill would make it so that makers of perishable goods could only use standard phrases for expiration dates, such as “best if used by” or “use by” to talk about freshness or food safety, respectively. These phrases would replace “sell by,” “best before,” “enjoy by,” and other words that, according to Irwin, make it hard to tell if food is still good or has gone bad.

Irwin, whose district includes Thousand Oaks and Simi Valley, said, “It makes no sense to the consumer, which is why so much food goes to waste.”

Irwin’s bill stalled in the Legislature because of opposition, so she asked CalRecycle, the state agency in charge of waste management, to make the same rules she had suggested. She said that CalRecycle could take this step without getting permission from the government.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says that more than one-third of the food sold in the country goes to waste, in part because people throw away food they think has gone bad but hasn’t. There is no federal rule that says how perishable food is dated has to be the same, and most of the time, “dates are not an indicator of the product’s safety,” says the department.

Jenn Engstrom, the state head of the advocacy group CalPIRG, said that the average American spends $1,300 a year on food that gets thrown away.

Engstrom said that Irwin’s plan to make food dates more consistent made a lot of sense. “I think a lot of people will really like it because it will save them the trouble of having to figure out when their food goes bad.”

State records show that groups in the agriculture industry, like the California Grocers Association, the California Farm Bureau, and the Association of California Egg Farmers, are against the plan.

Opponents have pointed out that California approved voluntary food labeling standards in 2017 that encourage the same “best if used by” or “use by” labels that Irwin wants to use. They say that Irwin’s bill would make it hard for companies to do business in other states, and they back efforts to adopt federal standards instead.

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