Why There’s a Misconception with Expiration Dates on Food

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Americans often rely on package expiration dates, but there is a real misconception as to what those expiration dates actually represent. If you asked someone off the street, it’s safe to assume they would say you toss the food if it reached its expiration date, but this would be wrong. The result is lots of wasted food.

It wouldn’t be your fault if you had this misconception as a majority of Americans do, partly because there isn’t a federal law dictating what these dates exactly are. Instead, it varies in states across the country which can lead to rampant confusion.

Ironically, nine states have no laws about expiration date labelson goods, while certain states like Minessota have a “quality assurance” date on all foods deemed perishable, Mashed reported.

Traditionally, the sell-by dates are actually more for the sellers than the consumers. But consumers see this expiration date and automatically assume that the goods are no longer safe to consume. We would be wrong.

These sell-by dates are nothing more than the best date to purchased and consumed goods at the peak of freshness and flavor. It also doesn’t take into account if you’re planning on freezing the product for a prolonged period of time.

If that’s the case, then these sell-by dates mean absolutely nothing. If you have milk in your fridge that is a few days past its expiration date, then it’s more than likely safe to consume. It doesn’t mean you will get sick for eating and drinking something a few days over the sell date.

Most people can easily gauge when something has gone bad anyway. The smell and the appearance of questionable goods are more than obvious in most cases.

According to CNN, 90 percent of Americans throw goods out prematurely, with 40 percent of that being unused food.

So next time you’re faced with tossing out food, give it the old smell and look test before doing anything hasty.