A study from Science Daily revealed that people who are confused about food date labels are likely to waste food by throwing it away too early. 

The study calls the confusion "widespread," saying many Americans are not sure they are reading food labels correctly. 

Science Daily's study says that nearly 40 percent of the participants "always" or "usually" discarded food if it was near a date listed on the product. 

A whopping 84 percent of the participants threw away the food "at least occasionally" if it was near the listed date. 

And more than half of the people studied said they thought the dates on food products were regulated federally...but they're not. 

Based on the report from Science Daily, raw chicken is the most frequently thrown away food product due to label confusion. 

Surprisingly, soft cheeses were the one of the least likely on the list to be thrown away near the label date, even though eating expired soft cheese can cause listeria and other health concerns. 

RELATED: Recipes to reduce food waste 

Some date labels are trying to communicate safety, while others are simply communicating quality.

When a date is preceded by the words "Best if used by," the label is telling you that the product's quality might have decreased, but it's still okay to eat. 

When a date is preceded by the words "Use by," the label is telling you that the product should be thrown out on or after that day because of food safety concerns. 

So, if you've been throwing away food labeled "best by," make sure you double check your food's quality before you toss it. 

A good way to test your food is also a simple way: give it a sniff. If the date says "best by" and it looks and smells okay, it's probably okay to eat.

The National Consumers League and the John Hopkins Center for a Livable Future supported this research.

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