A recent survey showed that 76% of US consumers believe that a food is unsafe to eat once the date printed on the package has passed. Not true! If stored properly most foods can be eaten days, weeks or even years past the packaged date. Remember the cans of Spam found after World War II?
But with all of the types of dates on food labels it can be hard to figure out what’s safe and what’s not. Let’s sort is out.
“Sell by” simply tells suppliers when to take products off the shelf–you’re expected to eat the food after the printed date. If you buy milk on its sell by date you can safely drink it for up to 7 days after the printed date. It’s estimated that over 60% of us dump a quart of perfectly good milk every month.
Dates on egg are even more misunderstood. You can safely eat eggs for 3 to 5 weeks after their date expires as long as they are kept in the refrigerator. As eggs age the whites and yolks become runnier and more difficult to separate, but they rarely spoil.
“Best if used by” dates are usually found on canned or dry foods, like cereal. Both canned and dry foods can be eaten after the printed date without harm. The cereal may taste less fresh and some canned products, like fruits and vegetables, may lose texture, but the foods are safe to eat.
The USDA estimates that we throw away close to 29 million tons of food a year. This waste has significant environmental and economic impact. Think before you dump.