Trash It or Eat It? The Truth About Expiration Dates

You find a box of crackers in your pantry that’s past its best before date — do you still dig in? In many cases, expiration dates are important indicators of how safe the food is to consume, but with certain items, it can be used as more of a guideline. Here, we’ve rounded up 20 products that are fine to eat past the package date, so long as you take the proper precautions. Kitchen Basics Main Articles Photos. Last updated on April 30, by Melissa Girimonte. Looking for a challenge?

Is it safe to eat canned food past its best-before date?

Each comes paired with a handy-dandy expiration date letting you know just when you should polish off those pierogi or finish that block of cheese. So that container of yogurt you forgot to open lurking in the back of your fridge may still be perfectly fine to eat after its best-by date. Instead states determine their own rules, resulting in wildly varied laws depending on where you live.

We are advised to date home canned goods, and to regard one year from that as the “best “History, Science and Current Practice in Home Food Preservation.

That is not intended as a date for safety purposes, but rather as an inventory management date to help ensure that your pantry stock remains high quality. The long and short of it is, in theory the seal on your home canned goods should be good forever, and as long as your seal is good the contents are safe. Quality and nutritive value may start to deteriorate after about the one year mark on some items later on others , so the experts say in general to try to use stuff up before a year, and anything that has just gone over the year mark, prioritize using them up.

The reason is not so much for food safety, but rather for optimum food quality. We do say we recommend using within a year for best quality; that also is not intended to indicate you should throw anything out that is over a year old. It says, use within a year for best quality. Beyond that, just like with commercially canned foods, you might start to see some quality deterioration. Accessed January We cannot give you an exact date for expiration.

Theoretically, if the food was processed safely, for example for canning, and stored properly and shows no sign of spoilage, until that vacuum seal is broken, there should be no way that it becomes further contaminated or becomes unsafe. But if it was safe at the time it was originally canned, until that seal is broken there should be nothing else happening to make it unsafe.

Which Expiration Dates REALLY Matter?

But these dates are—essentially—made up. The humble sell-by date actually has a surprisingly short history. It wasn’t even actually called a “sell-by-date” until Marks is so proud of its innovation that Twiggy trumpets it in their latest ad campaign. He bought up a milk processor, called Meadowmoor Dairies, and he lobbied the Chicago City Council to pass a law requiring visible date stamps on milk containers.

The NRDC report details how consumers in the s started to buy more processed foods, and as they got further away from the direct production of the ingredients in their meals, they got more worried about just how safe and fresh those ingredients were:.

The History of Canned Food. Lisa Couture. Johnson & Wales University – Providence, [email protected] Follow this and additional.

Date marks give a guide to how long food can be kept before it begins to deteriorate or may become unsafe to eat. The two types of date marking are use by dates and best before dates. The food supplier is responsible for placing a use by or best before date on food. Foods that must be eaten before a certain time for health or safety reasons should be marked with a use by date.

Most foods have a best before date. You can still eat foods for a while after the best before date as they should be safe but they may have lost some quality. Foods that have a best before date can legally be sold after that date provided the food is fit for human consumption. The only food that can have a different date mark on it is bread, which can be labelled with a baked on or baked for date if its shelf life is less than seven days.

Shelf Life, Storage and Can Codes

There is no uniform or universally accepted system used for food dating in the United States. Depending on which food you are buying, the date on the package could be a recommendation on when it should be sold by or when it should be eaten by. Since confusion surrounding a date could mean throwing out perfectly good food, here are some tips about food package dates and storage for some common foods on your shopping list.

Open dating use of a calendar date is found primarily on the package of perishable foods such as meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products. Except for “use-by” dates, product dates don’t always refer to home storage and use after purchase. See the accompanying refrigerator charts for storage times of dated products.

“Most supermarkets will remove can products from shelves once they have hit their best-by date and those products may be donated to a local.

Do the dates on food packages puzzle you? What about those letters and numbers? If you are confused or puzzled— you are not alone. There is no uniform or universally accepted system for food dating in the U. However, Washington law does require that foods that spoil within 30 days, including milk, cottage cheese, and eggs carry a pull date by which they are to be sold. This sell by date represents the last day to sell the product so you will have time to store and use it at home safely.

In addition, some manufacturers choose to add dates on products such as snacks and cookies even though they are not required. The dates alone are not a guarantee but they can be a helpful guideline. What does the date mean? Stores must remove these products by the date listed.

Food is still ok to eat even after the expiration date — here’s for how long

Then you look at the top of the can and discover the expiration date has come and gone. Now what? Do you assume the food magically turned poisonous on that day and discard it?

There are two types of expiration date codes on products. Use-by dates are intended for consumers and indicate when a product will start to deteriorate, Canned goods may in fact last months beyond the expiration code if.

Back to Eat well. Food labels can help us choose a healthier diet and make sure our foods are safe to eat. Here’s a guide to some of the most common food labelling terms. But understanding all of that information is important if we’re to make use of it. For example, if a food product is labelled “light” or “lite” or has “no added sugar”, what does this mean? There are rules that food manufacturers must follow to prevent false claims or misleading descriptions, and there are clear guidelines on what labels on packets can and can’t show.

You’ll see “use by” dates on food that goes off quickly, such as smoked fish, meat products and ready-prepared salads. Don’t use any food or drink after the end of the “use by” date on the label, even if it looks and smells fine. This is because using it after this date could put your health at risk. For the “use by” date to be a valid guide, you must follow storage instructions such as “keep in a refrigerator”. If you don’t follow these instructions, the food will spoil more quickly and you may risk food poisoning.

Keep it Safe: Know your expiration dates

Many times the shelf-life of food is not so much a matter of safety as it is quality. We want food that is safe to eat as well as food that tastes good. Observing “sell-by,” “expiration” and “use-by” dates is recommended. But what do these terms mean? Most dating is voluntary and is the manufacturer’s best guess at how long the product will last.

When does canned food really expire? Is it safe to eat canned food after the “best by” date? Here’s what we know.

When it comes to expiration dates, there is a lot of confusion between the dates listed on food packages. This misunderstanding can cause you to get sick from eating foods with high levels of bacteria. Take my own family, for example. After this date, the bacteria that lives in foods can begin to grow to high levels which make the food unsafe to eat. Once this date has passed, be sure to throw this food away. Foods are generally still safe to eat, though they may taste a little stale.

However, these foods are usually still taste good and are safe to eat for another three or four days.

Should You Follow Expiration Dates and Sell-by Dates?

We respect your privacy. All email addresses you provide will be used just for sending this story. There are plenty of reasons why good, usable food is tossed: picky kids, overstocked pantries, or even leftovers that sit in refrigerators too long.

See also: Article on Canned Food History – Can Sizes. Canned Food, Shelf Life. Can. (Date code listings below) One of the most frequently asked questions.

Considering the VZ 58 as a Survival Gun. Apr If you are like me your food storage is quite diverse, with canned foods integrated into the rotation cycle. Unfortunately there might not be a way to get through all of your canned food stock prior to hitting a few of those expiration dates, so what then? Do you assume the food magically turned poisonous and then discard it?

So the question remains just how long after the expiration date are canned foods good for? While the method by which you store the food surely has an impact on shelf life i. In a more recent article entitled Exposing Myths About Expiration Dates on Foods , a reference is made to just how trained people are to discard many items once they are past the expiration date. Buckley says the dates on canned and packaged foods, bottled water and even beer are more an indication of quality not a food safety or health issue.

When all else fails, crack those suckers open and use your senses to determine if they are still edible they probably will be. Check out this video for another perspective on which canned foods last the longest. The Prepper Pyramid. Skip to comment form.

Types of Expiration Date Codes

Canning , method of preserving food from spoilage by storing it in containers that are hermetically sealed and then sterilized by heat. The process was invented after prolonged research by Nicolas Appert of France in , in response to a call by his government for a means of preserving food for army and navy use. It was 50 years before Louis Pasteur was able to explain why the food so treated did not spoil: the heat killed the microorganisms in the food, and the sealing kept other microorganisms from entering the jar.

Information about dates on pre-packaged food is a valuable source of Culture, history and sport as the “packaged on” date, they can ask the retailer for this information. Examples include most canned foods, many dry foods such as pasta This allows an inspector to begin an investigation that is in.

Atwater , U. Hedden , U. State, industry, and manufacturer’s dating practices varied according to location and product. In the s the “Consumers Right to Know Act” touched on product dating. In the late s the media gain raised consumer awareness and, by association, confusion, over the plethora of extant dating systems. In sum: shelf-life dates were added to different foods at different times and mean different things in different industries. They are as confusing as they were 40 years ago.

Odonna Mathews, who worked with Mrs. Peterson as a University of Maryland undergraduate intern and now holds Mrs. Peterson’s old position at Giant, said: ”Her friends in consumer activism asked, ‘How can you work for a business and represent the consumer? Mathews said, she worked with Mrs. Peterson on the grade labeling of food.


Throughout history, people have tried to come up with a way to keep perishable foods fresh. Until the early 19th century, the only options were pickling, salting, drying or smoking these provisions. Although these methods preserved food, they affected its taste, texture and nutritional value. All that changed, however, when French chef Nicolas Appert perfected his revolutionary bottling technique.

Appert found that by enclosing provisions within a sealed bottle and boiling it, the food would keep indefinitely. Within several months of the initial publication of his findings, others began using Appert’s process with tin cans instead of bottles [source: Shepard ].

Does it mean the product will be unsafe to use after that date? applied provided they are labeled in a manner that is truthful and not High-acid canned foods (e.g. tomatoes and fruits) will keep their best quality for 12 to 18 months. starting with January 1 as and ending with December 31 as

But did you know that providing this date is typically voluntary? Avoid serious illness by keeping poultry in the refrigerator for only one to two days; beef, veal, pork, and lamb for three to five days; seafood for one to two days; and ground meat and ground poultry for one to two days. According to online health resource WebMD , milk is usually fine until a week after the “sell by” date; eggs are safe for consumption for three to five weeks after you bring them home.

Stored properly in a cool, dry, and dark environment, canned goods have a long shelf life. Herbs and spices are best stored away from heat, moisture, and direct sunlight. If you notice an expired jar in your spice cabinet, the contents are probably still edible, but they will have lost much of their potency and flavor. Batteries operate via chemical reaction, which starts from the moment of manufacture whether or not it is powering a device.

Therefore, battery life is dependent on when a battery was assembled, not necessarily on the date you stuck it in the remote control or smoke detector. Sometimes even good products go bad—case in point, most common household cleansers.

Expiration Dates Don’t Mean What You Think

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