There’s been a lot of debates regarding food expiration dates, with some people strictly abiding by the date printed on the packaging while others insisting that this date is flexible. Often, consumers incorrectly assume that the date on food labels indicate food safety, and that ingesting something that has “expired” can lead to food poisoning and other illnesses.
Here’s what you might not have known about food expiration dates:
- Understand labels.
The “Sell Before” date is intended for the retailer to know until when the product should be on display. In other words, the product should ideally be sold before the date printed.
The “Use Before” date is decided by the manufacturer and indicates the peak quality of the product.
The “Best Before” date is not the date at which the food product should be thrown out, rather, it is a recommendation for the product’s best quality or taste.
The “Expiration” Date, on the other hand, is a clear indication of the last date that a food product should be consumed.
- There are still some foods to watch out for.
Most meats, shellfish, and fresh fish have shorter “shelf” life than other food items, so it’s best to avoid eating these items after their “Best Before” date has passed. Dairy, too, has a short shelf life, and should be taken off of grocery shelves on the date of expiry printed on the packaging. On the other hand, food products that don’t require being kept in refrigerators might not necessarily cause illnesses if consumed after their “Use Before” printed dates.
- The “Best Before” date is only applicable to unopened packages.
Regardless if the “Best Before” date on the food package shows a date that’s over a month away, if you open the food package today, that date is no longer valid. This is because food has a higher chance of contamination once the packaging is opened, hence, the “Best Before” date is only really used to gauge product freshness while the food item is still at the grocery store.
- You can still consume food past the best before date.
As mentioned earlier, the “Best Before” date is only a recommendation for the food product’s best quality, so you still can consume them even past the “Best Before” date, just that the quality might not be the best by then. Yogurt and milk, for example, can be consumed safely for up to a week after the listed “Best Before” date. The key here is to use your common sense to avoid food items that have doubtful quality.
- Expiry dates are only required on infant formula and baby foods.
The federal government really only necessitates expiration dates on infant formula and baby food. For these items, you really have to use them up before the expiry date printed on them.
Incorrectly understanding food dates on labels contributes wasted food every year – in the range of millions of kilograms, at that. Educating ourselves about these expiry dates and similar other labels can help greatly in minimizing the amount of supposedly usable food items that we throw out.