What Do The Expiration Dates On Your Food Labels Actually Mean?

What Do The Expiration Dates On Your Food Labels Actually Mean?

Finish it or keep it in the fridge until the expiration date arrives, that's the rule in most kitchens. I've still met people who eat their expired cereals, chocolates and namkeens and they do not see any harm in doing so. What does that mean? Are they ignoring their health? Naah, not exactly.

While the labels provided by food companies on their products are easy to understand, they do not give us much information about whether one can or cannot consume the product after the mentioned date. Expiration dates can be confusing so we'll break it down for you.

Here's a brief on what expiration dates really mean and how you can tell if the food is consumable or have gone bad. 

On the food products, we usually see three types of expiration dates. And they are slightly different from each other. However, the dates mentioned talk about the quality of the product and not the safety of it.

1. 'Sell By' date: These numbers are for the stores. This date indicates the period a product can be kept on the shelves for. After the date passes, the product needs to be moved from the shelves but is still safe to consume. Sell By date represents the freshness, taste and consistency of the food. 

2. 'Best If Used By' date: This is when the quality of products starts going downhill but food still remains safe-to-consume. There could be a noticeable yet harmless difference in taste or consistency for instance oil from peanut butter starts separating.

3. 'Use By' date: Again, this tag is similar to 'Best If Used By'. Food is still safe to eat. The quality may visibly differ though.

joey eating food when the fridge broke

There are many other kinds of words used to represent the expiration dates but again, these dates indicate the quality of the product, not safety. So when do they really go bad? Well, each type of food has its own shelf-life. It's easy to tell if a vegetable or fruit has gone bad or not based on its appearance and taste. Milk has a shelf life of about a week and eggs can stay consumable for up to 3-5weeks. Meats can be tricky though.

For example, poultry, ground meat, fresh variety meats, uncooked sausages stay good for 1-2 days and beef, pork, lamb, veal can stay good for 3-5 days. 

While it is okay to eat a food product beyond the mentioned dates, USDA recommends the consumption of a product should happen before the mentioned 'used by' date. Important point is to store a product properly. A product left out for 5-6 hours cannot be considered safe to consume. We do recommend finishing your food before the mentioned date but do remember that the date is representing its quality.

So basically, eat fresh, stay healthy! 

GIFs: Giphy

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