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This Is Why Expiry Dates Should Always Be Followed

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This Is Why Expiry Dates Should Always Be Followed

1. What you need to know about expiry dates…

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So, you’ve got some food in the refrigerator on the cusp of its expiration date that’s written in a hard-to-spot location on the packet.  You don’t want to eat or use it now but judging by the date on the pack, the rules dictate that you probably should!  But do you really know everything there is to know about food expiration dates?

2. Is it safe to buy food on its expiry date?

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You might be wondering whether it’s OK to buy the food from the bargain bin at the grocery store, placed on discount specifically because it’s reached or very close to its expiration date.  The truth is, you’re in for a good bargain if you go ahead and purchase it due to the fact that it’ll be perfectly safe to consume for quite a while.

3. Freshness not safety

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In the US, the expiration date on food isn’t generally there because it becomes unsafe to consume after an exact date (with the exception of infant formula which we will explore later on).  Those dates that are on the product have more to do with the actual quality and texture of the food, rather than whether it’s going to poison you in some way.

4. Wait… THIS can expire?!

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The same goes for non-food-based products, including toothpaste, sunscreen, motor oil, and even car seats!  In fact, we bet that you’ve never thought about these products as even having an expiration date!  In fact, these products tend to keep you safe or have to work in some way, so ignoring these could spell out disaster.  We will cover why later on…

5. How accurate are they, really?

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With all of this concern surrounding the sheer existence of expiry dates, you might wonder how accurate they really are.  The truth is, these dates are really only the manufacturer’s best guess as to how long the products will last at their peak quality.  Food manufacturers are notorious for being rather conservative with their guesses too.  We wonder why!

6. What about the waste?

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So with these dates existing, and clearly rather cautious, questions arise surrounding the waste that’s inevitably going to pile up.  People are no doubt going to be influenced by these expiration dates, concerned about their and their family’s safety, and throw food and non-edible products away before they’re unsafe or spoiled.

7. What is the advice then?

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The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) protects the public’s health in the US by making sure that fresh animal-based foods, like meat, poultry, and eggs are safe to consume and properly labeled.  They recommend that to reduce food waste, the consumer should use their common sense and evaluate the quality of the food before throwing it away, regardless of the expiry date label.

8. Can I make my food last longer?

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Storing your food correctly will help it to last longer, for example, storing fresh food in the fridge, or even freezing it, can help reduce the chances of it growing harmful bacteria or mold.  But experts also recommend that even if you’re not going to eat it straight away, cook the food that’s about to expire.  This way, you’re essentially resetting its expiry date!

9. So are expiry dates actually safe to ignore?

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Even grocery stores will throw away food before it’s unsafe to eat, and other stores will dispose of expired products!  If you’re concerned about this issue, you might be tempted to start to ignore the expiration dates on everything, believing that they’re just made up.

10. Why should I follow them?

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The thing is, there are many expiry dates written on different food and non-food items for different reasons. And some of these are actually genuinely for your safety and the safety of your loved ones. Here are some of the many reasons why you should ALWAYS follow these expiry dates!

11. How to read expiration dates

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It does depend on where you are in the world, or even which state you live in but you’re likely to see different dates on your food. Obviously, this can get incredibly confusing and leave you wondering which is the right date to follow!  Here’s the lowdown and a little clarity on some of these labels.

12. Best If Used By/Before

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If you see a Best If Used By/Before (BIUB) date on your label, this is basically just the quality assurance date, and the manufacturer’s best guess as to when the quality of the food might decline.  It might not taste as good, look as good, or even have the same texture, but this doesn’t mean that it’s unsafe to consume. This is up to you.

13. Sell By…

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Again, not a safety date, but sometimes, you’ll see a Sell By (SB) date on your food as well.  This isn’t really for you as the consumer, but acts as a guideline for stores, suggesting how long it can be kept out on the shelf.  Unfortunately, though, these dates are incredibly cautious and according to studies, many products still have a third of their life left!

14. Freeze By…

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We also have the Freeze By (FB) date on there as well.  Again, nothing really to do with the safety of the product but more of a guideline as to when you should freeze it for it to remain at its best.  Freeze it after this date, nothing bad usually happens but there might be a chance that when you defrost it, the quality has clearly declined.

15. Use By…

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The Use By date (UB) is the one that you should not ignore under any circumstances on certain products that we will outline below.  This is the date that suggests when you should eat the food but, again, isn’t necessarily a safety date for everything.  Again, you should assess whether the food is safe yourself to prevent waste.

16. So they’re not completely meaningless!

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It makes sense that there are some foods in particular that would be absolutely fine to consume, even years after the expiry date.  That’s why you see people loading up their shelters with canned foods and Twinkies in post-apocalyptic movies and TV shows.  But there are some that you should never eat past their expiration date…

17. Infant Formula

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Most things are OK past their expiration dates, but under Federal Law, there is a requirement that the date on all infant formulas should always be followed for safety.  This is because it might not only be deemed unsafe for babies to consume, but it’s also likely that the formula might lose quality and nutrients that are essential for your baby’s development.

18. Medications

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Certain expired medications are at risk of bacterial growth, and if they’re past their use-by date, then there is a chance that they might not be as effective.  This can be particularly serious for antibiotics.  If they fail to treat infections, this could lead to more serious illnesses as well as antibiotic resistance.

19. Fresh foods

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Fresh food, you know the kind that you’re supposed to be eating plenty of, tends to be the first to expire.  And sometimes, you don’t even need to wait until after the expiry date for them to spoil into a slimy puddle in the bottom of your refrigerator.  Expiry dates on these though, can help you to reduce your waste.

20. Meat, Fish, and Poultry

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The FSIS recommends that you should never ignore the expiration dates on meat, fish, and poultry products. This is because even when they look and smell fine, they could unfortunately still cause some nasty food poisoning if they’re consumed after this date.

21. Egg Substitutes

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Whole raw eggs are likely to last you quite a long time if you store them in the fridge, up to five weeks, in fact!  But this rule doesn’t apply at all to egg substitutes.  In fact, once you open the carton, you’ve got only about three to five days to eat it up, otherwise, you’re at risk of getting sick.

22. Dairy Products

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Most dairy products have rather a long life if you store them correctly.  Semi-hard cheeses like cheddar have about four months in the fridge before you should dispose of them.  Milk has about seven days, whereas buttermilk and sour cream have between 1 and three weeks.  There are a few dairy products that you should be more cautious about though…

23. Softer Cheeses

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You should be a little more cautious with the expiration dates on the softer cheeses, like ricotta, brie, feta, and others. Although they’ll last about two weeks stored correctly in the fridge, you might need to dispose of them sooner if there are signs of mold.  This can grow with bacteria such as listeria and E. coli amongst others, and these can really make you sick.

24. Jarred Condiments

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You might think that jarred condiments last forever, but the problem with it is that you open and close the jar, cross-contaminating it with other foods, like when you make sandwiches. As soon as you open that jar, bacteria can start multiplying rapidly.  The best thing to do is to keep an eye out for signs of spoilage or water.

25. Sprouts

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Sprouts don’t last as long as their leafy vegetable siblings and this is because of the way they are grown. The best conditions for sprouts to grow are in warm and moist conditions, which is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, like E. Coli. So it’s important that you don’t consume these after their Use By date.

26. Cold-Pressed Juice

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Cold-pressed juices are often unpasteurized, which means that their shelf life is much shorter than pasteurized juices.  If they’re past their expiration date, there’s a chance that they could be contaminated with bacteria, which means that there’s a chance that they could make you sick.

27. Unpasteurized Products

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When products go through a process of pasteurization, this kills the harmful bacteria that might have grown on them.  Products like cold-pressed juices, milk, cheese, and egg whites go through this process to increase their shelf life.  Therefore, if you’ve got an unpasteurized product, it’s important that you check the expiry date and adhere to it to avoid getting sick.

28. Deli Meat

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Deli Meats, like ham and turkey slices, will last a maximum of five days, especially when you’ve bought them from the deli counter.  If you bought them packaged, then you have that long to eat them after opening the package.  If you consume it after this, and there’s an odor and slimy texture, then you’re at risk of listeria food poisoning.

29. Nutritional Supplements

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For health and safety reasons, it’s crucial to make sure that you follow the expiration dates on your vitamins, dietary supplements, and medications.  If you don’t this could be a health and safety matter and could even harm your health.  That, and they won’t be as effective.

30. So that’s the lowdown…

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So there you have it, expiration dates come in a few shapes and sizes, and taking them with a pinch of salt (except infant formula) can help you to reduce your food waste.  It’s all really common sense and up to you to assess whether the food is Okay and safe to eat.


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