Here’s What You Need to Know About Food Expiration Dates

Food Expiry Dates: More About Quality Than Safety: Have you ever wondered about the dates on your food packaging? Turns out they aren’t as strict as they seem. The USDA stresses that these dates are for quality, not safety. “Before you throw away that yogurt, think about the bigger picture,” they advise.

Understanding expiration labels: Labels such as “Best if used by,” “Use by,” and “Sell by” can be confusing. But these are not hard deadlines; they indicate maximum quality. “Best if used by” indicates a preferred flavor, while “Use by” suggests optimum quality. “Selling by” guides retailers, not consumers.

Reduce food waste: In the United States, approximately 30% of food is wasted each year, in part due to the use of expiration dates. But many foods are safe past these dates. Eggs last 3 to 5 weeks after purchase; fresh chicken and meat may last a day or two beyond “Sell By”. The milk remains drinkable for about a week after “best consumed before”.

Detecting spoilage and preventing waste: Signs like mold, odd odors or textures mean it’s time to throw away. Proper storage – fridge at 40°F (4°C), freezer at 0°F (-18°C) – is key to freshness. By understanding the labels and using our senses we can reduce waste. So the next time you look at that jar of condiments after its expiration date, remember that it might still be good and eco-friendly too.

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