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Expiry date on foods. What does it really mean?


A first-world problem we’ve all encountered at some point or other, is a freshly prepared cup of steaming coffee ruined by the addition of sour milk. The first thing people do after pouring the coffee down the drain is examine the expiry date on the milk jug or carton. Not always has the milk passed its “sell by” (or “use by” date).

It may surprise you to learn that the expiration date on perishable products is an indicator of quality, not safety. Milk can go sour days before the expiry date, or an entire week later. This all depends on how well it was refrigerated from the moment it was produced until it reached your cup of coffee. Don’t leave your milk out on the kitchen counter for a few hours on a hot summer day and expect extended life once returned to the fridge.

Conversely, a carton that has been well refrigerated should be fine even if the sell date has passed. To be clear – Yes, you can still drink the milk, eat the cheese, and prepare the steak a few days after the expiration date! Products may not be at their prime, but they should pose no safety issue.

It’s always a good idea to carefully sniff and, if possible, taste a small amount just to make sure that you won’t gag on a flavor that seems to be too “off” to be safe.

Of course, the smarter move is to avoid the expiration issue altogether by choosing the product with the latest expiration date when shopping. In some cases, you’ll need to reach in to the farthest reaches of the refrigerated shelf. Grocery clerks sort and order the milk on the shelves with the older products in the front and the newer ones in the back. Some place cartons with the expiration date facing backward, and the grab-and-run shoppers don’t notice.

Have you ever had an “expiration date” fiasco with refrigerated food?

Article by Hemi Weingarten first appeared on blog.foodeducate.com
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