Things We Already Knew: Expiration Dates Deemed Subjective

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Even the most inexperienced food consumer knows that those little dates printed on containers of milk, cheese, and eggs are to be taken with a figurative grain of salt. MSNBC reports this week that expiration dates lead to an incredible amount of food waste. Do you pay attention to expiration dates?

We’ve always been partial to the sniff test to determine if food just past its expiration date is safe to eat. But in light of all of the food-borne illness these days, should we be more vigilant?

First, don’t be fooled by different terminology. Expiration dates or use by dates are determined by average spoilage time by the FDA. Sell by dates are different and involve a little more guess work, suggesting the date by which the store should sell the food, not when consumers should eat it. And then there’s best before dates, which are more about taste preference than food spoilage. Dates are set conservatively, and MSNBC believes, too cautiously. It’s estimated we throw away 14 percent of the food we buy each year and much of that is due to food deemed spoiled by expiration dates.

Do you stick to expiration dates or use your own judgment?

(Image: Emma Christensen)