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USDA: 'Best if used by' labels will reduce food waste
The US Department of Agriculture says
food sellers who use product dating la-
bels should switch to the phrase "Best If
Used By" to help reduce confusion and
Consumers are less likely to find such labels
confusing than other widely used ones such
as "Sell By" and "Use By," the agency said this
week. Here are some of the ramifications of
the USDA's move:
The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection
Service issued the new guideline Wednes-
day as part of an effort to cut back on food
that gets thrown out when it could be eaten
or donated. The agency estimates 30 per cent
of food is lost or wasted, either at the retail or
The guideline is aimed at food manufactur-
ers and retailers. It follows a January directive
from the USDA that the agency said would
make it easier for companies to donate food
that might otherwise go to waste.
One reason food expiration labels are so
confusing for consumers is that there aren't
many strict federal standards for them. Food
product dating isn't required by federal reg-
ulations except for infant formula.
Different labels are aimed at consumers and
retailers, according to Bob Brackett, director
of the Institute for Food Safety and Health at
the Illinois Institute of Technology. Brackett
wrote on the Institute of Food Technologists
website that "Sell By" is designed to inform
retailers of the date by which a product should
be sold, but it does not mean a product is un-
safe to consume after the date.
"Use By" is directed at consumers and
means the quality of the product is likely to
go down faster after the date, Brackett wrote. It
does not mean an expired product will neces-
sarily make a person sick, he wrote. "Best By"
is also directed at consumers and suggests a
date by which a product should be consumed
for best possible quality, he wrote.
The USDA said this week that the use of
many different phrases about food quality
dates leads to disposal of food that is actually
nutritious and safe to eat. The agency said its
research shows that "Best If Used By" is easily
understood by consumers. (AP)
preschoolers may have
more sleep problems
Preschoolers whose natural preference is for
going to bed and waking up on the late side are
more likely than their early-bird peers to have sleep
problems, a recent study suggests.
Adults and teens with a late "chronotype," or internal
"body clock," tend to stay up later and wake up later and
to have more sleep problems than others, the researchers
write in the journal Sleep Medicine.
"Sleep problems can start in early childhood and often
persist across development. They have been associat-
ed with negative behavioral, cognitive, and emotional
health consequences," senior author Birit Broekman,
a researcher with the Singapore Institute for Clinical
Sciences, Agency for Science, Technology and Research,
said in an email.
For adults and teens, sleep problems may arise if they
need to wake up and go to school or work before their
bodies are ready, Broekman noted, but little is known
about how chronotype can contribute to sleep problems
in very young children who have yet to be exposed to the
formal education system and fixed school start times.
The new study shows that even by preschool age,
children with evening chronotypes may be having sleep
problems, Broekman said.
The researchers studied families in Singapore, focus-
ing on 244 children who were all around four and a half
years old. The mothers completed questionnaires that
allowed researchers to categorise the kids as morning,
intermediate or evening chronotypes.
In addition, the mothers reported kids' sleep problems,
including resisting bedtime, taking a long time to fall
asleep, sleep anxiety, night waking, sleep walking, sleep
disordered breathing and other issues.
Researchers also used monitors to track sleep and wake
times for 117 kids over four days, to validate the sleep
diaries kept by their mothers.
Based on the chronotype profile questions, 25 children
were judged to be morning types, 151 were intermediate
types and 64 were evening types.
Average weekday bedtime for morning types was about
10 pm and wake up time about 7.30 am. Intermediate
types tended to go to bed at about 10.45 pm and wake
up around 7.40 am. Evening types usually fell asleep
around 11 pm and woke up just after 8.30 am.
After adjusting for ethnicity and other family factors,
researchers found that children with evening chrono-
types had more sleep problems than children with either
morning or intermediate types.
"This suggests that chronotype could be a contrib-
uting factor to sleep disturbances in early childhood,"
Broekman said. "This could potentially have a negative
impact on daytime behavior and cognitive development,
as remains to be tested."
Chronotype is a very important concept that gets
overlooked because most people may not be familiar
with it, said Dr Judith Owens, director of the Center for
Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Boston Children's Hospital,
who wasn't involved in the study.
"It has become more prominent in thinking about
adolescent sleep because we know that many adolescents
are evening chronotypes when they have a strong drive
to fall asleep and wake up relatively later," Owens said.
While teens are often night owls, Owens said the
usual thinking is that young children are more likely to
be "'morning larks" who go to bed earlier and are the
first ones to wake up.
The researchers found a lot more evening chronotypes
in these children than previous studies have identified,
Owens noted, and suggests that cultural influences could
be important in that respect, as the study authors men-
The most likely issue would be that evening-type chil-
dren may not be able to fall asleep at the bedtimes set by
their parents, which could result in bedtime resistance
and struggle at the beginning of the night, she said.
Owens advises parents to be flexible if possible, al-
lowing preschool kids to go to bed a little later and sleep
on their preferred schedule.
And avoid screen exposure at night, Owens added.
"That means television screens, computer screens, lap-
tops, iPhones, iPads, e-readers. Anything that emits blue
light is going to suppress melatonin release and delay
that fall-asleep time even more." (Reuters)
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