Almost every item at the grocery store has a 'sell by' or a 'use by' date stamped on it.
For many consumers, the dates confuse more than help.
"I don't want to eat something that's expired," said shopper Christina Guzman.
Peter Lehner from the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) says the dates are NOT expiration dates.
"You don't need to throw it out if it's past the date on the label," said Lehner.
The NRDC estimates 9 out of 10 Americans are confused by the dates. A family of four throws out about $2,000 worth of still edible food every year.
"The dates are up to the manufacturers. There's no federal standards for anything in this store except for infant formula," adds Lehner.
Lehner says many foods, if stored properly, can last long after the labels indicate.
- Milk - At leaset a week past the printed date
- Eggs - Can be good 3-5 weeks after you buy them
- Canned Products - Last up to 5 years
- INFO GRAPHIC - How long things stay in the fridge
The Grocery Manufacturers Association says that dates indicate freshness but admits changes are needed. The goal of the organization is to create a uniform global standard for labels.
Lehner says, until then, consumers should use common sense.
"You can open it and smell it you can take a look at it and for most things you'll be able to tell whether or not it's still good."