Almost all fresh foods in the grocery store have expiration date stamps. The dates can be confusing if you don’t understand the purpose behind them. Some items have codes with the dates that signal workers should pull the items from the shelf, while others are marked with the dates when they were manufactured. Regardless of the type of dating used, the majority of the foods with grocery store expiration dates should be safe for consumption at least a week after they have expired. That means that the discount shelf is a great place to save money on healthy foods for your family.
Expiration Dates Indicate Freshness, not Safety
The date on a carton of eggs or a gallon of milk is only a guide for the store to know when to pull the item from the shelves. The expiration date does not mean that the item is no longer safe; it simply means that the item has reached the end of its prime freshness period. Some foods, like bread, can last for several weeks after the expiration date if they are stored properly. Grocery stores pull the items from the shelf because they don’t want to take a chance that the item could be less than perfectly fresh on the date you buy it.
“Use-by” versus “Sell-by”
There is a big difference between a “use-by” date and a “sell-by” date. If a product is marked to use it by a certain date, the consumer can expect the product to begin to deteriorate after the marked date. The “sell-by” date is only a guide for shopkeepers, not a rule for consumers to follow. Some products are marked with dates that don’t indicate whether they are the sell-by or use-by dates. It is best to treat these unidentified dates as the use-by date and try to consume the product before the date that is marked.
Which Dates Are Federally Mandated?
Dating products is a convenience for shopkeepers and manufacturers rather than a federally mandated program. The only products that are legally required to carry expiration dates are infant formula and baby food. The food is safe for consumption after the expiration date, but it may have broken down so that it does not contain the listed amounts of nutrients from the label. Formula that sits on the shelf too long can begin to coagulate and will not pass through a standard bottle nipple easily. Stale formula and baby food also tastes bad, so it is best to use these products before their expiration dates.
How to Make Sure Your Foods Are Safe to Eat
You don’t need to throw away your milk because the carton displays yesterday’s date. Any food will begin to show signs of deterioration when it is truly going bad. Smell the food and look at its coloring and consistency to determine whether it is safe to eat or not. A general rule of thumb is that you can consume refrigerated goods up to a week after their store expiration date. Foods that are stored in cans or dried forms can stay safe up to a month past their dates in some cases.
Jessica Bosari writes about money-saving topics for LowIncomeApartmentFinder.com. The site helps those with limited incomes with money—saving tips, advice and a tool for finding cheap apartments.
- Do You Eat Foods Past Their Expiration Date? (fitsugar.com)
- Cook Fast, Live Young: Expiration Dates Hold the Key to Discounted Grocery Store Prices (savings.com)
- Wasted food- billions of kilos (atyoursenses.com)
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