Who hasn’t heard a lot about expiration dates, right? I know you have.
You’ve probably noticed the perplexing numbers and those enigmatic symbols on food packaging. Our constant question is, “What do they mean?”
Let me tell you a secret, I was also uncertain about expiration dates and I’m sure you are too. My friend, stop hesitating and crossing your fingers. Expiration dates can be perplexing but together we will solve the riddle of these date codes and their significance. Therefore we will be able to arm ourselves with the right information to make sure the food we consume is protected and fresh.
Dear reader, by the time you have gone through this article, you will feel comfortable and well-equipped to navigate the grocery store’s aisle and choose the right products.
So let’s get started, shall we?
What are Expiry Dates?
In simple terms, expiration dates are specific dates mentioned on food or product packaging that indicate the last day the item is recommended to be used or consumed. After the expiration date has passed, the product may no longer be safe to consume or may not provide the intended quality.
Expiration dates serve as a guide and instruction to consumers to prevent any potential food-borne illnesses.
Types of Expiration Dates
Expiration dates vary and each label carries its meaning and significance. They can be written on the bottom of the product, the sides, the back, the lid, and the neck of the product.
1. BEST BEFORE OR BEST BY(CODE FORMAT ‘BEST BEFORE MM/DD/YY)
The “Best Before” date is about quality. This term is mostly seen in packaged snacks, canned foods, dried foods, beverages, spices, and seasonings. It often indicates that the product will be of the best quality and flavour before this date.
This simply means you must consume the food on or before that date. Consuming the product after this date doesn’t necessarily mean it’s unsafe, however, it might not taste or look as fresh as intended.
An example of a best-before code might look something like this BB/MA 2017MR20.
On the other hand, the “Use By” date is a clear safety warning. It indicates the last day you should consume the product to ensure it is safe to eat. Consuming the food after this date can pose health risks as harmful bacteria might have grown in it, making it unsuitable for consumption.
While “Best Before” is about quality, and you can still use the product after that date, “Use By” is about safety, and it’s crucial to consume the product before that date for your well-being.
Rather than consumers, retailers are the target audience for sell-by dates. These dates instruct store employees on how long to keep a product on the shelves for sale. The sell-by date helps consumers gauge a product’s freshness and ensures they have enough time to enjoy it at its peak.
Dairy goods, prepared foods and perishable foods are among examples. It is important to keep this in mind as a customer. You should always check the sell-by date on products before purchasing. This is to make sure you have enough time to use them before they potentially lose their quality.
Diary products for example are good for at least 1 week after the sell-by dates and eggs are also safe for about 3-5 weeks after the sell-by date.
4. MADE/MANUFACTURED ON(MFG)
The “Made By” or “Manufactured By” date is a valuable piece of information that reveals when a product was produced or manufactured. Unlike expiration dates, this date signifies the item’s creation rather than its quality or safety.
While not directly related to freshness, the “Made By” date is essential for tracing product origins, identifying batches, and ensuring quality control. Cosmetics and Skincare products, medications and supplements, electronics and appliances are examples of products that often display the ‘mfg’ date to indicate the production date.
Knowing the importance of expiry dates is different from knowing the importance of following expiry dates.
Expiration dates are not to scare you or just for fun, it’s a guide and a way of products speaking to you directly. Everyone gets to play their part, from the producer to the retailer and finally the consumers. As a consumer, the most essential part you play is to know the importance of following expiry dates. This includes;
- Food Safety
- Quality Assurance
- Product Effectiveness
- Bacterial Growth
- Freshness Guarantee
- Legal Compliance
- Warranty Validity
- Reducing Waste.
Now that we understand the importance of following expiry dates, there’s another crucial aspect to explore—the world of shelf life.
The World of Shelf Life
While expiry dates guide us on when to consume products for optimal safety, shelf life plays a significant role in determining the lifespan of our cherished items. We can increase the duration and longevity of our products by following these simple practices:
- Proper storage of perishable foods.
- Freezing of food items like ice cream, meat, fish, and bread can prolong their freshness beyond their regular shelf life.
- Use clean hands or applicators when using cosmetics to prevent contamination and prolong product life.
- Keep cosmetics and skin care products away from direct sunlight and heat sources, as this can degrade their quality.
- Keep medications in their original containers and follow storage instructions provided by the pharmacist or manufacturer.
- Regularly check medication expiration dates and safely dispose of any expired or outdated medications.
- Regularly dust and clean electronic devices and appliances to prevent dust buildup, which can affect their performance.
- Ensure proper ventilation around electronic devices to prevent overheating, which can damage internal components.
The secrets to preserving the freshness of our favourite products and our health in the world of expiry dates have been revealed. Keep in mind that not all food gone past their expiration date is dangerous. Some can still be useful.
With this information, we can safely navigate the world of expiration dates; make informed decisions; cut down on waste and look forward to every meal with a sense of security and satisfaction.