Food Expiration Dates: Should You Eat That?

Companies must observe legalities and include a validity period on the packaging, which everybody is familiar with. Does the date, month, and year represent safety measures or quality and freshness? The dates may mean both aspects. Best before date, Expiry date, Use by date, and Sell by date – isn’t it confusing? Lots of food gets wasted due to fear and because the messages are not clear. In the interests of good health and to guard against food poisoning, ample food gets rejected. With kids, greater caution is needed for sure. The truth is that many deleted food packages could be consumed since the dates are only indicators and not dire warnings.

Expiry Dates Cannot be so Rigid

Adhering to guidelines and laws, manufacturers must mention the dates, or they will get into big trouble. Common sense indicates that the dates cannot be treated so specifically. A couple of days should be fine if today is mentioned as the expiry date. The validity would apply differently to the variety of foods for sure. Dry food items generally have a more extended validity period. Dairy products, in comparison, will only last for a while and need refrigeration. Every product lasts well as long as they are sealed. Once opened, they must be consumed and refrigerated relatively soon to minimize germs. However, that is still being determined since some bacteria thrive in the cold.

Treat Expiration Dates with Caution

Don’t compromise like with baby food because of the risks involved. Somebody should use Infant formula, Cake mix, and Baking powder within the date mentioned. Yeast loses its impact. The texture suffers in the case of jams and jellies. ‘Expires on’ and ‘Do not use after’ makes much sense in these examples.

Misleading Notices

A series of dates on the packaging in sometimes unclear terms is the cause of much confusion. Primarily, safe consumption should be the leading concern with food. None of the dates mention safety but represent freshness, flavor, and quality.

  • Sell-by date indicates how long the store can exhibit it for sale

  • Use-by date represents the best quality 

  • Best if used by date stands for the freshness and flavor 

  • Coded dates, numbers, and letters reflect product packaging time

How does the Food Look and Smell?

The dates mentioned may be arbitrary but form a guide to deciding if the food should be eaten or discarded. Families should be very concerned about illnesses that might arise. Pets may also suffer from expired pet food that also indicates similar dates. If the food looks and smells good with no slimy content or foul odor, it should generally be safe to consume. Curdled milk and water with sediment are off the table. Creamy cheese and sandwich staples deserve to be rejected past the expiry date to avoid sickness. Bread, and cakes too.

Why Food Storage Matters

Where and how food is stored will decide how long one can safely consume it. Whether raw or cooked also determines the safety dates. Remember that the rear of the fridge has the coldest temperature. Store better, like celery in aluminum foil and asparagus in water, for longer life.

  • Milk keeps for seven days in the fridge. Eggs last for at least four weeks. After cooking, meat may be refrigerated for four days. Store cooked steaks in the fridge for four days. 

  • Dry items like rice and pasta in the pantry may last two years. After cooking, refrigerate and consume them within four days. 

  • Similarly, canned fruit may be stored in the pantry for 15 months. After opening, it lasts a week in the fridge. 

A few Guidelines for Safety

After unsealing and refrigeration, the safe consumption period gets very much shortened. The dry foods and sealed packages last so much longer, maybe two years.

  • Eat open and refrigerated butter within three months and drink milk within five days. When frozen, butter stays for six months, and frozen milk stays for three months.

  • One can eat pre-cooked packaged meats after opening within five days when refrigerated. If frozen, it may be stored for two months. 

  • May eat Ketchup after opening it within six months when refrigerated. 

  • Mayonnaise needs to be consumed within two months if opened and refrigerated. 

  • Opened and refrigerated jams and jellies should be eaten within six months. 

  • If opened and refrigerated, beer and soda cans and bottles should be consumed within two days. 

Do’s and Don’ts in the Kitchen

If the acid content is high, like canned tomatoes and citrus fruits, it lasts 18 months. Canned food with low acid lasts five years and includes meat, fish, and vegetables. If kept too long, the taste suffers, and the texture too. Store them in a dark place at room temperature.

Safely eat food from the freezer with no worry despite the dates indicating flavor loss. After opening a package, avoid inserting the hand that introduces bacteria that survive in the freezer. After defrosting, one can cook food.

Refrigerated leftover food can last four days. Seafood spoils faster. Bacteria grow fast if food remains at room temperature. Could you put it in the fridge quickly?

Watch out for These Foods

The different categories of foods need to be managed accordingly.

According to professionals, hard cheese like cheddar has a long shelf life but opened packages keep for only four weeks. Hard cheese fights battles well with bacteria and mold.

Soft cheese like ricotta has weak defenses against bacteria and should be discarded on the expiry date. The softer the cheese, the shorter the cheese life.

Jarred condiments are not safe, either. After opening, could you not keep it for very long? With spreads and sauces, avoid dipping the spoon or knife back into the container after scooping to prevent bacteria from entering. Mustard may last a year in the fridge, but it is six months for Ketchup and four months for BBQ sauce. Discolored appearances, stale smells, and floating water indicate that they should go to the wet waste bin.


Perishable foods like vegetables and fruits stand greater chances of contamination by bacteria. Moisture-filled foods like salads also face greater risks. Accordingly, treat the expiry dates with great seriousness. Consuming such foods after expiry may lead to food poisoning. Solid and canned foods present the strongest defense against germs. No wonder the whole world is interested in freshness.

Updated on: 07-Apr-2023


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