The Agriculture Department has determined that 36 pounds of food per person is wasted every month, about 21 percent of the available food in the United States. And one big reason: those expiration dates are wrong or overly cautious.

The solution. Hold your nose and just eat it. Even if it is 18 months past the expiration date.

It sounds yucky, but officials think they've got the trick to get moms to feed expired but safe food to kids and adults alike — they've even got an app. It's called FoodKeeper and it is supposed to have a more accurate calculation of food expiration dates, even for baby food and eggs.

The administration's plan might curb the growth of garbage dumps. AP Photo

USDA provided a video in which one official explains, "Many products may have a sell-by date of say April 1 but they could be good in your pantry for another 12 or 18 months. And by throwing those out, what you're doing, is you're contributing to food waste in the United States." As an example, the video showed boxes of dried pasta.

In a recent blog post about their mobile application, USDA explained what FoodKeeper can do:

-- Find specific storage timelines for the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry, depending on the nature of the product.

-- Get cooking tips for cooking methods of meat, poultry and seafood products.

-- Note in your devices' calendar when products were purchased and receive notifications when they are nearing the end of their recommended storage date.

It is part of a larger program from USDA and the Environmental Protection Agency called the U.S. Food Waste Challenge aimed at reducing waste, or recycling old food to feed animals.

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at