The dates on food labels can be confusing. The truth is, they often have nothing to do with food safety. Here’s what you really need to know. The date, which is provided voluntarily by the manufacturer, tells you how long the product is likely to remain at its absolute best quality when unopened. After the “use by” or “best” date has passed, you may start to notice gradual changes in the unopened product’s texture, colour, or flavour. But as long as you’ve been storing the unopened item properly, you can generally consume it beyond this date.
Your best bet for gauging whether an unopened shelf-stable product with this type of date is still of satisfactory quality is to simply smell and examine it first. Always discard foods that have developed an off odour, flavour or appearance. You can also consult the Keep It or Toss It database for optimal food storage times, for both unopened and opened items. You should buy the product before the sell-by date expires. But you can still store it at home for some time beyond that date, as long as you follow safe storage procedures (check the Keep It or Toss It database for specific foods).
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Either way, packing codes help manufacturers and grocers rotate their stock and quickly locate products in the event of a recall. But they are not meant to be interpreted as an indicator of either food safety or quality. Checking the “best before” and “expiry date” labels on foods, from milk and cheese to bread and meats, is one of the first things consumers should do before throwing them in their grocery carts. Meat and poultry typically have a Sell-By date. You should use or freeze your chicken within one to two days of purchasing and meat within three to five days of purchasing.
Freezing your poultry and meat can make these proteins last anywhere from nine to 12 months. When freezing, it is important to make sure your poultry and meat is tightly wrapped in order to prevent it from freezer burn. Freezer burn does not make food dangerous to eat, but does damage the texture and taste. Dairy and eggs typically have a Sell-By Date. Proper refrigeration (40? F or below) is vital to ensure the best possible shelf life of your dairy. The shelf life of milk is affected by several factors, including how it is handled before and after it is purchased.
When stored at 40 degrees Fahrenheit and not left out of the refrigerator for extended time periods, milk should last approximately five to seven days past the “sell by” date. ” The type of cheese contributes to its shelf life. Soft cheese (cream cheese) will last up to two weeks, whereas a medium or hard cheese (cheddar) can last three to six months. The Egg Safety Centre reports that the dates on egg cartons are not food expiration dates, but guidelines. Raw eggs can stay good for approximately three to five weeks after the date of purchase as long as they are not cracked or damaged.
Baked goods and snacks typically have a Use-By Date. Store-bought bread will typically last five to seven days at room temperature, but can last one to two weeks in the refrigerator. Fresh-baked bread do not contain preservatives, so they typically won’t keep as long as commercially packaged breads. If the date on your bread or snacks has expired, it does not mean they have not gone bad. In fact, once something goes stale it means that it has been depleted of moisture, which makes it less likely to grow mould. Try storing it in a plastic bag for extended shelf life.
Snack foods contain preservatives in order to maintain shelf life. Different types of snacks have varying expiration dates: Potato chips will last one month after expiration date. Crackers can last up to three months. One of the longest lasting snacks is popcorn, which has a shelf life of one to two years. Canned goods typically have an Expiration Date. Low-acid canned foods such as vegetables like peas or carrots can last anywhere from two to five years. High acid canned foods such as citrus fruits, pickles, or tomatoes can last 12 to 18 months.
Make sure to store your cans in the dark, because light can accelerate natural chemical reactions. If your can is bulging or has a dent, throw it out, as this may be a sign of food-borne illness. Beverages typically have Use-By dates. Many water bottles have a two-year Use-By date printed on them. However, as long as the bottle stays unopened it is safe to drink. Bottled water does not contain nutrients, so the pathogens that cause food-borne illness can’t grow. Once a bottle of water has been opened it should not be kept for more than two weeks.
Soda has a storage time of three months, after that the colour and flavour might change but the beverage will be safe for consumption. Trust your nose and eyes. If it looks or smells funny, throw it out. If you see mould, it’s too old. Many people cut off the mouldy piece of fruit or bread and believe it is then safe to eat. However, moulds are filamentous (threadlike) and when a food shows mould growth on the surface it means that the root like threads have invaded the entire food. Mould can cause allergic reactions, respiratory problems, and the mycotoxins they produce can make you sick. Content
Expiry date is a date when something will end or the last date on which a food can be used. Shelf life is the length of time that foods, beverages, pharmaceutical drugs, chemicals, and many other perishable items are given before they are considered unsuitable for sale, use, or consumption. In some regions, a best before, use by or freshness date is required on packaged perishable foods. Shelf life is the recommendation of time that products can be stored, during which the defined quality of a specified proportion of the goods remains acceptable under expected (or specified) conditions of distribution, storage and display.
Most shelf life dates are used as guidelines based on normal and expected handling and exposure to temperature. Use prior to the expiration date does not necessarily guarantee the safety of a food or drug, while a product is not always dangerous nor ineffective after the expiration date. The term “food expiration dates” has become a generic term describing any date shown on a food product label. While some food products do show “expiration dates” many products only show a sell by, best by or use by date. Most of these dates are not related to food safety but in fact created to let consumers know when the product has reached its peak quality.
Most foods are safe and useable beyond those dates. Read complete article on food expiration dates including a chart with times foods can be used past their printed dates. This brings us to terminology. The actual term “Expiration Date” refers to the last date a food should be eaten or used. “Sell by” date, the labelling “sell by” tells the store how long to display the product for sale. You should buy the product before the date expires. This is basically a guide for the retailer, so the store knows when to pull the item. This is not mandatory, so reach in back and get the freshest.
The issue is quality of the item (freshness, taste, and consistency) rather than whether it is on the verge of spoiling. “Best if used by (or before)” date. This refers strictly to quality, not safety. This date is recommended for best flavour or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date. Sour cream, for instance, is already sour, but can have a zippier, fresh taste when freshly sour (if that’s not an oxymoron! ). “Born on” date. This is the date of manufacture and has been resurrected recently to date beer. Beer can go sub-par after three months. It is affected by the light. The light can reactivate microorganisms in the beer.
That’s why you have to be especially careful with beer in clear bottles, as opposed to brown or green. “Guaranteed fresh” date. This usually refers to bakery items. They will still be edible after the date, but will not be at peak freshness. “Use by” date, this is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. The date has been determined by the manufacturer of the product. “Pack” date. You will find this one on canned or packaged goods, as a rule, but it’s tricky. In fact, it may be in code. It can be month-day-year-MMDDYY. Or the manufacturer could revert to the Julian calendar.
January would then be 001-0031 and December 334-365. It gets even weirder than that. Parallel names for expiry date is best before, use by, open dating, and sell by or display until. Best before or best by dates appear on a wide range of frozen, dried, tinned and other foods. These dates are only advisory and refer to the quality of the product, in contrast with use by dates, which indicate that the product may no longer be safe to consume after the specified date. Food kept after the best before date will not necessarily be harmful, but may begin to lose its optimum flavour and texture.
Eggs are a special case, since they may contain salmonella which multiplies over time; they should therefore be eaten before the best before date, which is a maximum of 45 days after the eggs are packed. Sometimes the packaging process involves using pre-printed labels, making it impractical to write the best before date in a clearly visible location. In this case, wording like best before see bottom or best before see lid might be printed on the label and the date marked in a different location as indicated. Generally, foods that have a use by date written on the packaging must not be eaten after the specified date.
This is because such foods usually go bad quickly and may be injurious to health if spoiled. It is also important to follow storage instructions carefully for these foods (for example, if they specify that the product must be refrigerated). Foods with a best before date are usually safe to eat for a time after that date, although they are likely to have deteriorated either in flavour, texture, appearance or nutritional value. Bathroom products and toiletries usually state a time in months from the date the product is opened, by which they should be used.
This is often indicated by a graphic of an open tub, with the number of months written inside (e. g. , “12M” means use the product within 12 months of opening). Similarly, some food products say “eat within X days of opening”. Open Dating is the use of a date or code stamped on the package of a food product to help determine how long to display the product for sale. This benefits the consumer by ensuring that the product is of an acceptable quality when sold. An Open Date does not supersede a Use by date, which should still be followed. These dates are intended to help keep track of the stock in stores.
Food that has passed its sell by or display until date, but has not yet reached its use by / best before date will still be edible, assuming it has been stored correctly. It is common practice in large stores to throw away such food, as it makes the stock control process easier. It also reduces the risk of customers buying food without looking at the date, only to find out the next day that they cannot use it. Tampering with the posted date is illegal in many countries. How many of us have conducted a quick sniff test before deciding to consume recently expired food? Do food expiration dates really matter?
The fact is that these expiration dates mean very little and can be misleading. There’s also no uniformity in their accuracy for freshness and quality. The lack of consistent standards in labelling expiration dates may open up room for interpretation but also confuse some consumers, who end up throwing away all suspected spoiled food. Product dating is generally not required by federal regulations. Instead, “open dating” is much more common, which simply stamps a calendar date (as opposed to a code) to help distributors determine how long they have to sell the product.
It is not considered a safety date but merely a suggestion of best quality. The only items protected under federal law to be labelled for safety concerns are infant formula and some baby foods in various states. The “sell by” date tells the store how long to display the product for sale before the item should be pulled. Consumers should buy the product before the date expires for optimal quality (freshness, consistency, taste. ) The date does not refer to any safety measures or state of spoil. The “sell by” date refers to the last day an item is at its highest level of assured quality; it should be edible for some time after the date as well.
Sometimes grocery stores will discount the closer the “sell by” date approaches in an effort to clear their shelves and stock up on the next batch of goods. “Use by” and “Best if used by” are also labels that strictly refer to the quality, not safety, of the product. The date has been determined by the manufacturer of the product as a suggestion of optimal freshness, but can fluctuate according to the type of product. Some can last longer than the “use by” date (canned goods stored at optimal temperatures in the dark) while higher-acid products like canned pineapples and tomato sauce can have a shorter shelf life.
The taste, aromas, and appearance of food can change rapidly if stored in hot, humid conditions, even for canned goods. Once cans or other containers in which foods are stored start to bulge, discard these items immediately no matter what the expiration date is. Since freezing foods at or below 0 °F stops bacteria growth and spoilage, foods that have been frozen are safe to eat past expiration dates, as long as the product is frozen before the “freeze by” date. Although old frozen food may have freezer burn and loss of flavour and freshness, it’s still deemed safe to eat.
However, if you completely thaw certain products (meats and ice-cream), they may not be as safe to eat, as harmful bacteria may develop. Keep foods you know are going to be in the freezer for a long time in air-proof freezer bags to prevent freezer burn and dryness. Generally, raw meats, poultry, and seafood freeze better than after they’ve been cooked. Growth of bacteria is the main concern about the shelf life of poultry and fish. If improperly stored, bacteria can double within 20 to 30 minutes. Even though millions of bacteria cells may form in as little as four hours, keep in mind that it only takes as few as 10 E. oli bacteria to make you sick. Since bacteria thrive in protein-rich foods, be sure to store meat, eggs, dairy products, and seafood in the fridge. Leaving these foods out for more than two hours (even prior to cooking) can cause bacteria to multiply to a harmful level, making your food unsafe to eat regardless of expiration date. Experts provide a guide to the variety of confusing ‘freshness’ dates on food. How Long Are Foods OK to Eat? Milk is usually fine until a week after the “Sell By” date. Eggs are OK for 3-5 weeks after you bring them home (assuming you bought them before the “sell by” date).
Poultry and seafood. Cook or freeze this within a day or two. Beef and pork whether its cook or freeze within three to five days. Canned goods. Highly acidic foods like tomato sauce can keep 18 months or more. Low-acid foods like canned green beans are probably risk-free for up to five years”. You are suggested to keeping canned and dry food at 50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit in a dry, dark place. Humidity can be a factor in speeded-up deterioration. The taste, aroma, and appearance of food can change rapidly if the air conditioning fails in a home or warehouse.
Obviously, cans bulging with bacteria growth should be discarded, no matter what the expiration date. Food safety is important to everyone. However, as we age, it becomes harder for the immune system to ward off harmful bacteria. Chronic diseases, such as diabetes and kidney disease, can make fighting off infections even more difficult. While most people affected by food borne illness can recover completely, serious longer-term health effects, including conditions such as kidney failure and anaemia, are more common in older adults.
This is why it is extremely important for older adults to take extra precautions when it comes to food. To reduce the risk of food borne illness, it is essential for older adults, and, to follow safe food-handling and cooking practices. Food safety tips: purchase the product before the date expires. If perishable, take the food home immediately after purchase and refrigerate it promptly. Freeze it if you can’t use it within times recommended on the chart. Once a perishable product is frozen, it doesn’t matter if the date expires because foods kept frozen continuously are safe indefinitely.
The Malaysia food safety system is characterized by its complexity and diversity; with different authority entrusted with the task of ensuring food safety at different stages of the food chain. General objective of food safety in Malaysia is to protect the public against food related hazards & fraud as well as to motivate and promote the preparation, handling, distribution, sale and consumption of safe and quality food. How long can we keep canned food? Always check the label when buying food. Date marks on the labels of canned foods will provide you with information on when the product can be sold or consumed.
Canned foods with a shelf-life of more than two years do not need a ‘best before’ date. These foods do not carry a date mark as it is very difficult to determine a meaningful date when the shelf-life is two years or longer. When checking for date marks, look for clear, obvious printed numbers. Food regulations require ‘best before’ dates to be distinguishable, expressed in chronological order (i. e. month, year), and provided in encoded numbers. As long as the container remains intact, canned foods have a long shelf life even at room temperature.
The sealed containers prevent contamination of food by organisms that can spoil the contents or cause illness to people during transportation and storage. While canned foods do not change suddenly, slow changes do occur in the container and food quality may change over time. The storage life depends on a number of factors, including conditions of storage and the nature of food. As a general rule, the best shelf life will be obtained when canned foods are kept in a cool, dry place. For best results, it is recommended that your supplies of canned food are refreshed periodically.
Check label of the product for any storage instructions. If the label has storage instructions, ensure that the food is stored accordingly at the point-of-purchase. Generally, canned products are designed to be stored at room temperature. If more stringent storage conditions are required for health and safety reasons, then the label must state these storage conditions. If instruction are not provided on the label, then store in a cool dry place. Handle containers carefully to avoid denting or other damage. Rotate food in your pantry by using older stock first. How to select canned food?
Always check the label when buying food. Date marks on the labels of canned foods will provide you with information on when the product can be sold or consumed. In addition, food containers should be inspected for swelling and/or leakage, rust and scratches, broken tamper-evident seals, dented or damaged containers and damaged seams (joins). Do not purchase the food if you see any of these problems. Before opening Inspect the containers as outlined in ‘How do I select these foods? ’ before use. If there are any sign of damage, do not use or even taste the food.
Wipe or wash the top of the container before opening. Always use a sharp clean can opener and wash the opener after every use. Practice good hygiene as if you were handling fresh food – keep all food preparation surfaces and implements clean, and wash hands in warm soapy water before preparing food. After opening, if the content have an usual odour or colour, or if you notice that the inside of a metal container (or lid) is rusted, throw out the contents. Do not taste. Once opened, canned foods are often highly perishable.
Opened canned food should be treated in the same manner as regular food, and should not be stored any longer than its uncanned version. If not used immediately, the contents of the opened container should be emptied into clean plastic or glass container, covered and stored in a refrigerator. Tips for storing food in the freezer is maintain product quality remember to rotate. First in, first out (FIFO), use the oldest products first. Always place the new products in back of the same products already on the shelf. Check the expiration dates, the new products may be older than the old.
Keep freezer temperature at or below 0 °F. If your ice cream in not brick-solid, the temperature is above the recommended level. Use moisture-proof, freezer-weight wrap, such as foil, freezer bags and freezer paper. Remember, when folded, foil may develop pinholes, resulting in freezer burn. The shrink-film wrap on meats in self-serve counters allows air to enter the package and is not suitable for freezer storage beyond two weeks. Wrap over these packages with a moisture, vapour-proof wrap to prevent freezer burn. Label and date all packages.
Date food packages with an expiration date according to maximum storage time recommended below. Longer storage is not dangerous, but flavours and textures begin to deteriorate. Monitor the temperature of the freezer using a thermometer. Freeze home frozen foods in the coldest part of freezer. Within 24 hours, freeze no more than three pounds of food per cubic foot of freezer space or one-tenth of freezer capacity. Conclusion The durable life dating [“best before” date] of food products is defined by the Canadian Food and Drugs Act and Regulations.
Durable life is the period, starting on the day a food is packaged for retail sale, that the food will retain its normal wholesomeness, palatability, and nutritional value, when stored under conditions appropriate for that product. Dating information and instructions for proper storage are required on most foods, which have a shelf life of 90 days or less. It is up to the manufacturers and retailers to determine the durable life of foods they manufacture and sell. The dating information they provide indicates quality not food safety.
Any pre-packaged food product having a durable life of 90 days or less must have a durable life date on the label, expressed as the “best before” date, and instructions for proper storage. Look on the label for the statement “best before” coupled with the month and date, for example, best before OC 15. It may not say “best before” if there is an explanation of the significance of the durable life date somewhere else on the label. Expiry date is not a term used with food. The only exception is infant formula, which does carry an expiration date.
Products packaged at the retail store with a durable life of 90 days or less may be labelled with either a durable life date and any necessary storage instructions, or a packaging date and accompanying durable life information, on the label or on a poster next to the food. Fresh fruits and vegetables are exempt from this labelling but meat must follow the regulations. Among the basic labelling requirements for pre-packaged foods are the common name, net quantity, ingredients, “best before date”, and responsible party by or for whom the packaged food is manufactured or produced.
Inspectors review food labels for accuracy, investigate complaints, and charge offenders. A national, non-profit organization that works with the food, nutrition, health, and scientific communities, and with media to provide information on current food, food safety and nutrition issues, its states that “durable life dating” is critical to safe food handling by the consumer. A glance at many meat counters today and you will find “best before dates” in use more frequently than “packaged-on dates”. Both are based on durable life standards established by Health Canada. Should I throw out food past the “best before” date?
The durable life date is valid only for unopened products. Once opened, the product should be consumed at once. Foods susceptible to spoilage should not be consumed if the “best before” date is passed. Even if a food shows no signs of spoilage, it can harbour pathogenic microorganisms that can cause food borne illness. Foods that are not susceptible to spoilage can usually be consumed past their “best before” date. These foods may have lost some of their original flavour and nutritional value. Use your senses (sight, smell) and common sense to decide if it is appropriate to eat it.
When in doubt, throw it out. You can buy and eat foods after the “best before” date has passed. However, when this date has passed, the food may lose some of its freshness and flavour, or its texture may have changed. Some of its nutritional value, such as vitamin C content, may also be lost. Remember that “best before” dates are not indicators of food safety, neither before nor after the date. They apply to unopened products only. Once opened, the shelf life of a food may change. NEVER use your nose, eyes or taste buds to judge the safety of food.
You cannot tell if a food may cause food borne illness by its look, smell or taste. And remember: “If in doubt, throw it out! ” Foods that are likely to spoil should be properly stored, and they should be eaten as quickly as possible. Harmful micro-organisms that lead to food borne illness can grow in foods, even if they do not appear to be spoiled. Some foods show a best-before date even if they are not required to do so, but these dates tell you about the freshness and shelf life of “unopened food,” so once a product is opened, there’s no guarantee it will have the same flavour, texture or nutritional value.
Consumers need to know once they’ve opened a carton of yogurt, and taken that seal off, that best-before or expiry date is no longer in effect. The expiration date is the date up to which the food maintains its microbiological and physical stability, and the nutrient content declared on the label. That means it’s important to use that food before the expiry date to get the most nutritional value from it. Even after a best-before or expiry date has lapsed, a food may smell or taste fine, but that can be dangerous. When a best-before date has expired, “use your judgment.
When an expiration date has passed, there is no doubt, throw it out. ” Foods should be refrigerated within two hours of purchase (sometimes sooner) for a best-before date to be valid. The refrigeration slows down but does not stop bacterial growth, so food can still go bad. Some food can be frozen to keep beyond its best-before date, but how long it can be safely frozen depends on the type of food and its ingredients. Consumers can also contact manufacturers for information about freezing and storing their products.