How Accurate Are Food Expiration Dates?

How Accurate Are Food Expiration Dates

Checking expiration dates is important for a variety of reasons. They can help you determine which foods are safe for consumption and which should be avoided, effectively keeping consumers away from spoiled or expired food. By following expiration dates you can make sure your food tastes as delicious and fresh as possible, and won’t cause you any stomach issues or the dreadful symptoms of food poisoning.

Food expiration dates vary widely depending on the food you’re eating, the type of category the food belongs to, and the setting in which it’s stored. But just how accurate are food expiration dates to begin with?

What Food Expiration Dates Mean

When trying to understand how accurate food expiration dates are, it’s important to know about the different types of expiration dates and learn about what they represent. Once you understand this, you’ll feel more confident in your ability to pick food that’s fresh and flavorful, and won’t cause you problems. You’ll know how to pick high-quality food while reducing unnecessary waste and staying safe.

Best if Used By/Before Date

The Best if Used By/Before date signifies the recommended date to eat the food by for optimal taste and freshness. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) encourages consumers to understand what this date means, so they can help reduce overall food waste. Contrary to popular belief, this isn’t a final expiration date – it’s about quality rather than safety. Food can still be consumed after this date if it’s stored in the right conditions, and thus it doesn’t need to be thrown away. However, your food might not taste as flavorful after the passing of this date.

Use By Date

Determined by the product’s manufacturer, the Use By date is also about quality rather than safety. If you want to consume your food while it’s of high quality, following the Use By date can give you an indication on timing. It is still safe to consume food after this date if it’s stored in the right conditions. However, it’s not recommended to consume infant formulas, oral supplements, meal replacements, or other types of medicinal food after the Use By date.

Sell By Date

Sell By dates are used to indicate to stores how long products should be in stock to be sold at high quality. Consumers should avoid buying products that are left out past this date if they’re looking for high-quality food, and search for ones that haven’t reached this date yet. While food is usually still edible after this date, the overall quality and freshness of the food may be impacted.

Expiry Date

An expiry date isn’t about food quality, it’s about safety. This indicates the last day the food item should be consumed, as eating it after the date could cause stomach issues from contamination or food poisoning. To stay safe, once it expires, it should be thrown out, even if it’s stored in proper conditions. This is especially important for items like supplements and meal replacements.

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How Accurate Are Food Expiration Dates?

What Food Expiration Dates Mean

Remember that food expiration dates are not necessarily indicators of when food should be thrown out. How long a product stays flavorful and high-quality for, and how long it lasts before it expires, depends greatly on the type of food.

Certain foods are safer to eat past their expiration dates, including canned and packaged goods that last for a long time. However, when you’re dealing with dairy products like milk or yogurt, eggs, meat, or fish, it’s important to be more careful as they definitely don’t last as long. To stay safe, it’s important to follow the expiration dates accordingly and educate yourself on the shelf life of different products. 

If you’re not sure whether a food is fresh or not, pay attention to the smell and texture, as this will change when the food is no longer fresh. Also make sure to store your products in proper conditions to prevent bacteria from spreading and causing food poisoning. 

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