Learn about discrepancies in food date labeling, in this NOVA Next article. Although processes such as pasteurization can protect people from harmful pathogens, food quality still degrades over time. However, different foods age in different ways, and criteria for shelf life (like bacteria levels, taste, and texture) vary. Food manufacturers use date labels, but variations in language—“expires on,” “best before,” and “best if used by”—lead to confusion among consumers. There is no standardized way to distinguish between safety dates and the manufacturer’s quality suggestions. Standardizing criteria across manufacturers could save money for consumers and reduce food waste. This resource is part of the NOVA Next Collection.