I read in the AARP Bulletin tonight that comedian Jeff Dunham remarked on Facebook that the Himalayan sea salt he bought said that it was created 250 million years ago. He goes on to say that the label shows an expiration date in 2016. He then remarks, "Guess they dug it up just in time."
This is funny, but it also points to a serious issue. But first I had to see if it was true. I have a container of both Himalayan salt and a container of Real Salt in my house. Both were created during ancient times and have not been processed in any way. So, if they're hundreds of thousands of years old, then one shouldn't really expect there to be an expiration date. But it turns out that my Himalayan salt has an expiration date of December 2020 and my Real Salt has an expiration date of April 20, 2080. As much as I use salt, there may still be some salt left by the time those dates are reached, although in 2080, I'll be 133 years old.
Don't you wonder how they came up with these expiration dates? I mean, do we even know how long these salts have been around in order to establish that one of them should expire five years from now while the other one can go another 65 years?
The truth of the matter is, there are a lot of foods that have expiration dates on them, but they don't really go bad. That's good for the food companies because there is usually more than one person who throws food out on its expiration date. In fact, I would venture to guess that there are probably millions upon millions of people who pay attention to food expiration dates and then throw perfectly good food in the trash. In fact, according to The Washington Post, Americans threw out 35 million tons of food in 2012. That's more food that was thrown out than the total weight of plastic, paper, metal and glass combined. And that sells more food, thus bringing more profits to the food companies.
I'm not against profits, but I am against food waste. And I am against profits that are earned from food being wasted It's not just that there are starving children in poor third world countries as our mothers used to tell us, but it's also the fact that a lot of agricultural water is used to grow foods that then are wasted. And a lot of farmland is used. And a lot of fertilizer. In fact, according to both the United Nations and the World Resources Institute, about a third of the food grown each year gets wasted as opposed to eaten.
Economically that's over a trillion dollars worth of food that is wasted on an annual basis. Of course, that's not all from expiration dates. But I'd venture to say that a significant part does come from that. According to a statement issued by Harvard Law School, people are prematurely throwing out food as a result of expiration dates printed on the food containers.
It's something to think about. By not throwing out food, we save ourselves money. And we save the planet from further environmental damage. It's a start.