Expiration dates: unlocking the issue
Expiration dates can be tricky to navigate. While, in most cases, they are simply a loose guideline, it is important to recognize in what cases it is safe to defy them or not.
EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT
Everyone behaves differently when it comes to expiration dates. Personally, I never eat anything expired, though I know I could. My best friend, on the other hand, has no fears when it comes to expiration.
THE LABEL IS NOT REQUIRED BY LAW
Expiration dates are not required by federal law. That’s why many labels read “best by” or “best if used by.” The date on the package is not about safety — rather, it is meant to give a ballpark estimation of how long the product will keep and how fresh it is. These dates are often most accurate when it comes to refrigerated items.
TWO DIFFERENT KINDS OF FOOD
Since these labels are just guidelines, the best way to determine whether food is still edible is by smelling or tasting it. With milk, for example, you should always evaluate smell and consistency before pouring some out or throwing it away. Meat is the same — color and smell are always your best guides to determine whether to get rid of it.
There are two different categories of food: the first is made up of fresh and highly perishable items, the second consists of canned or dry non-refrigerated items. With the first type, which includes eggs or milk, it is best to be conscious about the expiration date and tend to abide by it. With the second group, you can be more relaxed, because the food remains edible after expiration, though it may lose some of its flavor.
We must always act responsibly and avoid any potential health risks. But it's also important to remember that every day, people throw away a lot of edible, good food simply because it has passed its expiration date. To avoid food waste, use your senses to evaluate wether food is still good. If this scares you, check expiration dates as you shop, and don’t buy more food than you need.
- Donatella Mulvoni