Do Food Expiration Dates Really Matter?
Experts provide a guide to the variety of confusing 'freshness' dates on food.
How Long Are Foods OK to Eat?
If you are not up on your Julian calendar and dating seems sort of a
hodgepodge, how about memorizing some basic rules?
- Milk. Usually fine until a week after the "Sell By" date.
- Eggs. OK for 3-5 weeks after you bring them home (assuming you bought them
before the "sell by" date). VanLandingham says double-grade As will go down a
grade in a week but still be perfectly edible.
- Poultry and seafood. Cook or freeze this within a day or two.
- Beef and pork. 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 do not want to put cans in a hot place like a crawl space or
garage," Peggy VanLaanen, EdD, RD, a professor of food and nutrition at Texas A&M
University in College Station, Texas, tells WebMD. She suggests 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 FDA notes that 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 Tips
Since product dates don't give you a true guide to safe use of a product,
here are some other tips from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety
and Inspection Services:
- 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.
- Follow handling recommendations on product.
|Â ||Storage Times After Purchase|
|Poultry||1 or 2 days|
|Beef, Veal, Pork, and Lamb||3 to 5 days|
|Ground Meat and Ground Poultry||1 or 2 days|
|Fresh Variety Meats (Liver, Tongue, Brain, Kidneys, Heart,
Chitterlings)||1 or 2 days|
|Cured Ham, Cook-Before-Eating||5 to 7 days|
|Sausage from Pork, Beef or Turkey, Uncooked||1 or 2 days|
|Eggs||3 to 5 weeks|
When Do Other Vital Items Go Bad?
The FDA does require that drugs carry an expiration date.
Alan Goldhammer, PhD, associate vice president for regulatory affairs of the
Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), tells WebMD that
safety, purity, and potency must be tested and established over time by drug
manufacturers. If a drug says the expiration date is 18 months hence, it means
these three qualities can only be guaranteed that long, assuming the drug is