When we shop for our groceries the first thing we do is check the expiration dates on the food before we put them in our cart. But why? What do expiration dates really mean? Here are some answers to common questions about the freshness of food products.
What’s The Purpose Of An Expiration Date?
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 date to get the most nutritional value from it.
Does Opening A Product Affect The Best-Before Or Expiration Date?
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 flavor, texture or nutritional value. Once you pop the seal the best-before or expiration date is no longer in effect.
Does keeping food cold or freezing it extend its best-before date?
Foods should be refrigerated within two hours of purchase (sometimes sooner) for a best-before date to be valid. 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.
Do foods in other countries have the same food warnings?
Standards about when foods expire or are best differ in various countries. For instance, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not require food companies to place “expired by,” “use by,” or “best before” dates on food products, although U.S. law states that foods sold in the country “must be wholesome and fit for consumption.”
Do you pay attention to expiration dates?