After the “best if used by” date In USA has passed, how long can you safely eat the food? More than you expected

In February, a lady posted a picture of Trader Joe’s labelled Green Goddess Salad Dressing to a Facebook page dedicated to Trader Joe’s meal ideas.

There was a use-by date of Dec. 16, 2021 on the bottle, which she’d purchased months earlier, she noted in her journal entry. Even though it was refrigerated, she hadn’t gotten to it yet. An image taken from a camera shows the bottle in its normal green hue.

She questioned the group, “Do you think it’s still good or should I throw it?”

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And thus began the great argument.

In response to the question, “I’m confident it’s fine because it’s unopened and refrigerated,” one woman said.

Another person replied, “I wouldn’t risk getting sick,” and I agreed.

A chorus of “toss it”s rang out.

Others remarked, “I’d eat that,” as well.

Out of a total of 80 comments on the post, 50 percent of them were of the “toss it” sort, while the other half indicated either it’s fine to consume, or that they had tasted it and found it to be delicious.

The original poster, Erin Kuhn, thanked the group for their ideas. It was suggested that she throw out the salad dressing, so she did, according to her message on Facebook Messenger.

Food safety experts say it’s possible the dressing didn’t taste fresh, but it’s very unlikely it made anyone sick. This is due to the fact that date labels such as “best if used by” or “sell by” refer to food quality rather than safety.

These dates are not mandated by federal law. When food is of the best quality, manufacturers and sellers use them.

Trevor Craig, corporate director of technical training and consulting for food testing company Microbac Laboratories, explained that the manufacturer wants to give their customers with the same high-quality product every time.

Dates are not a reliable predictor of a product’s safety, except in the case of infant formula

However, many consumers have no idea where these dates come from or what they imply.

Overzealous best-before dates result in 30 million tonnes of food waste from homes annually according to the group ReFED, which studies food waste.

Between $1,500 and 1,800 dollars a year is spent on food that goes to waste in the average family of four in South Carolina, according to the manager of the state’s recycling office, Richard Chesley.

According to Chesley, “Food labels are a big contributor to food waste.” The “Don’t Waste Food SC” initiative, operated by his office, aims to reduce food waste in South Carolina by half by the year 2030.

In an effort to standardise the wording of food labels, the food industry has asked food producers to voluntarily transition to just two descriptions: “best if used by” to indicate quality, and “use by” to warn potential safety issues for certain foods.

In late 2018, a study by the Consumer Brands Association found that 87 percent of its members agreed with that language.

However, many people still read phrases like “sell by” and “use or freeze by” on their food packages.

Both the House of Representatives and the Senate have introduced legislation to require that if a food date label is used, only the best-if-used-by and use-by dates be used. Campaigns for consumer education are also part of the legislation’s requirements for the future.

Do you know what a “best by” date is?

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there are two sorts of dates that can appear on food containers that you purchase.

The term “open dating” refers to a date on a calendar that is provided by the maker or reseller, along with a remark such as best if used.

Customers will be able to know how long they can anticipate the meal to retain its ideal quality and flavour by looking at this information.

Closed dating is a series of letters and numbers used by manufacturers to indicate the date and time of production.. When a product has to be recalled, manufacturers use these codes on canned foods or shelf-stable products to keep tabs on them, according to the USDA.

According to Andy Harig, vice president of tax, trade, sustainability, and policy development for FMI, The Food Industry Association, open dating began to be introduced to food in the mid-1980s. It was never meant to be a hard and fast expiration date for clients, he added.

Using a product by a given date does not imply that the food is unsafe, inedible, or expired at that time. It simply implies that the food producer decided that beyond that date, the product might not taste its best.

According to Craig, food manufacturers want you to consume their items at their freshest possible state because they know you’ll enjoy the flavour.

Consumers are less likely to acquire a product that has changed its appearance, smell or texture – even if it is safe to eat – because of the negative impact on their experience as a customer.

Despite the fact that they are all concerned with quality, Craig pointed out that different companies have varying interpretations of the terms “best by” and “sell by.”

Because neither the manufacturer nor the grocery store wants a product that looks poor on display, the sell-by date is frequently used to signal when the product should be removed from the shelves.

Craig believes that best-by dates are influenced by the quality requirements of the producer.

To find out how long their products will keep their finest appearance, aroma, texture, and flavour, companies hire laboratories like Microbac.

In order to build a strong reputation, Craig advised. “You want your customers to rave about how good your product tastes… The first time I tried it, I couldn’t wait to buy more.

In contrast, use-by dates are more commonly found on dairy, meat, and eggs.

Craig advised that you can continue to use it for a short period of time after the event, as long as there are no signs of spoiling.

Naturally occurring spoilage microorganisms cause foods that have been tainted to acquire an unpleasant odour, flavour, or texture. The USDA advises against consuming food that has developed such rotting characteristics.

After a few sips of milk that wasn’t quite fresh enough, “everyone probably has had a regretful moment there,” said Craig.

The most essential thing to keep in mind, he continued, “is that none of these are safety-driven, but quality-driven.” There may be some wrinkles or colour change, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that anything isn’t safe for consumption.

However, food banks can accept and distribute foods that have passed their best-by dates because there is no law prohibiting them from doing so.

As Feeding America’s Wayne Melichar said, “even if an item has passed the expiration date on the food label, it is still safe to eat,” he continued.

The USDA’s Food Keeper App is used by their network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries to assess whether foods are safe to distribute.

According to the US Food and Drug Administration, manufacturers are forbidden from including inaccurate or misleading information on product labels. However, FDA clearance of their date labels is not necessary, and they are not obligated to explain how they arrived at the date they applied.

According to Craig, the FDA may seek for evidence to back up a label’s claims of quality after a particular date if the label’s veracity is questioned.

There are expiration dates on medications and formulas

There are expiration dates on both over-the-counter and prescription pharmaceuticals because they may lose their potency over time.

If you regularly take one medication a day to treat a disease, that same pill may only be half as effective after its expiration date.

When a drug company submits an application for FDA approval, it is required to give data on the drug’s projected expiration date and storage conditions.

If a medicine has degraded, the FDA warns that it may not offer the intended benefit to patients because it has a lower strength than intended. There are other potential negative effects that can arise when a medicine degrades, such as the release of hazardous chemicals that can harm consumers.


Infant formula, on the other hand, has its own set of guidelines

Infant formula that is subject to FDA inspection must include an auseby date on the product label, according to federal laws.

The expiration date assures that the formula contains the amount of nutrients its label claims.

Buying or using baby formula after its useby date has been advised by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Saying “best if used by” on food labels should be normal practise, whether through legislation or grassroots efforts.
Consumer Brands Association and the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) initiated a project to standardise the language used on food date labels in February 2017.

According to Emily Broad Leib, head of the Harvard Law School Product Law and Policy Clinic, 70% of customers understood the term “best if used by” to suggest that their food will taste best before that date but is okay to eat later.

It was determined that the phrase “use by” would be used for more perishable products, while “quality” would be used for things that were more stable.

According to the announcement of the programme, “Use by refers to the few products that are highly perishable and/or have a food safety issue over time; these products should be consumed by the date specified on the packaging – and discarded beyond that date.”

The words have been widely adopted, but not universally, according to Broad Leib

In other areas, state law mandates that eggs be labelled in a different way.

Food date labelling is regulated in 44 jurisdictions, and 23 states forbid the sale of certain items after the date indicated on the label has passed. If you live in a state that doesn’t, you’ll get conflicting information regarding how long food is safe to eat after the expiration date.

According to the Food Date Labeling Act of 2021, which was presented in both the Senate and the House of Representatives last year, the food sector would be required to comply with two standard phrases that it has previously accepted voluntarily.

Regardless of whether or not the uniform phrase is adopted, education is still critical. There are still a lot of people who don’t know what’s safe to eat, according to experts.

As a possible solution, Craig explained, “my mum investigated expiration dates.” In contrast, my father was the complete opposite. Within a few days of opening something, he thought the taste had changed.

According to Harig, how food is stored and prepared affects its shelf-life. A six-week-old food item could go bad considerably more quickly if it’s kept in a heated atmosphere, he warned

As part of the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, Cornell University, and FMI, the Food Keeper app was developed to provide consumers with information about the shelf life of popular food items.

Chesley emphasised the need of relying on one’s own gut when shopping for products. As a rule of thumb, “use your eyes and nose.”

When inflation is strong, how can you save money?

Consumers can save hundreds of dollars if they don’t throw out food because it’s past its use-by date.

Chesley asserted that “the majority of us aren’t aware of how much we waste.”

One in nine South Carolinians, including one in seven children, are food insecure, according to Chesley. Even though it’s still perfectly safe to eat, “food is just too damned convenient” for many Americans, causing people to throw out perfectly good food because it has passed its expiration date.

Foods that are a little stale or past their best before dates can be repurposed by consumers, according to Harig.


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