Save Food by Knowing What the Dates Mean

Use By Date on Bottom of Can

Food for sale in any supermarket, grocery store or dollar store will always have a stamp that says "Best used by", "use by", "best before" or "expiration date". Noting when food is no longer fresh is important as it enables stores to ensure that only fresh food is offered for sale. It can also help consumers know when certain foods should be eaten.

Unfortunately, noting when food is fresh and when it is not also leads to a lot of confusion and is one of the many reasons why Americans end up throwing out up to a quarter of all purchased produce. The fact is that labels such as "best used by" and "used by" do not indicate when a food expires and is no longer safe to eat; it simply shows that the food is no longer fresh. The labels are more for the seller's benefit than your own and you can eat food that is a few days past the "used by" date without worrying about getting sick. In some cases the nutritional value of certain foods will not be as high as it was when the food in question was fresh; however, this does not mean that the food tastes bad or is rotten.

Expiration dates, on the other hand, are rigid. This is especially true of meat and infant formula. Additionally, you may need to throw certain foods out even before the expiration date if the foods have not been stored properly.

If you want to avoid wasting food, assess your eating habits and purchase only what you need. Check the dates and buy food that will stay fresh for the longest period of time. At the same time, be sure to also take a moment to think about what the date on the package really means and don't throw out food that is likely still good to eat.


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