Expiration Dates Don’t Mean What You Think

-What the… Eggs…Sell by yesterday? Orange juice…Best by two days ago. Yogurt…use by last week? Well, now I have to get rid of all this food. If I don’t, someone could get sick.

-No, you don’t. “Best-by”, “Use-by-“, “Sell-by”. Contrary to popular belief, none of these dates actually tell you when food stops being safe to eat. In fact, food can still be good way past the date on the label. According to food safety experts, eggs can be eaten three to five weeks past the sell-by date.

-Sell-by dates are a yolk.

-And the USDA says canned and dried foods can be saved indefinitely.

-Ho! Ho! Ho! I won’t go bad for years.

-And if food isn’t handled properly, it can actually go bad before the date on the label. Even something as simple as leaving it out on the counter too long or setting your fridge at the wrong temperature can cut shelf life short.

-So hot in here. I think I am….I am going bad.

At the end of the day, these dates just don’t tell you that much. Instead, you need to check your food for signs of spoilage, like changes in smell, color or texture.

-Oh…Well then this milk is definitely bad.

-Nope, you can still drink me.

-Oh yeah, milk is a really neat exception. Even after its “spoils,” it’s still totally safe to drink.

-Oh ew.. Stop! You’re gonna get sick.

-Nope! Milk is pasteurized, which means any harmful bacteria were removed long before it hit the shelves. Even though it might not taste great, the safety risks of drinking spoiled milk are virtually zero.

-Adam, stop! I get it, I get it. But, if the date doesn’t say when the food is safe to eat, why does the federal government put it there?

Hate to break it to you: They don’t. We all assume that these labels are some kind of big government safety regulation, but, with the exception of baby food, the federal government actually doesn’t require date labeling of any kind.

-The citizens of this great nation have an inalienable right to eat five-year-old mayonnaise if they want, for this is… America.

-Instead, it’s all left up to the states, and every state has their own rules. In fact, nine states have no date labeling regulations at all.

-Well, who does put the dates on the food? Seems like they don’t tell us anything at all.

-Oh, no, they do tell you one thing: when the manufacturer thinks their food tastes the best.


-Here at Hulko, we use cutting-edge food science to determine the exact best-by and use-by date on which our food is the most snack-tabulous.

-Mmm…I am still pretty good.

-Pretty good garbage, you mean. Date it, boys!

-But that food is not dangerous, and he just said it, it still tasted good.

-Not good enough. We need our customers eating our food at maximum crunchitude, or they might buy something else. And hey, if they think they have to throw it away sooner and buy more…

-But that’s wasting food.

-That’s right, Melinda, and it’s a major problem.

-Melinda, this is Dana Gunders. She is a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council and a co-author of a major 2013 Harvard report detailing the massive problem with these dates.

-American trash over one hundred and sixty billion pounds of perfectly good food every year, roughly 40 percent of our food supply is thrown out, and these confusing dates are a huge factor.

-One survey found that 83 percent of Americans have prematurely thrown out food based on the sell-by date, but that date isn’t even meant for consumers. It just tells stores when to turn over their inventory.

-Wait, sell by today? But I bought it today… Well~

-This is ridiculous. Someone should do something.

-Well, some leaders in the grocery industry are pushing for clearer, simpler labels, but until there’s a nationally mandated system, their recommendations are just voluntary.

-And the worst part is we’re trashing all this perfectly good food while millions are going hungry.

-Wow! That one’s alive. All of these is gotta go.

-No, I am still good~



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