Food blog

Decoding Expiration Dates: What to Pay Attention to and What to Ignore

Expiration dates you should and shouldn’t pay attention to

Kitchen storage and preservation

Thanks to modern preservation techniques and the widespread availability of refrigerators, food can last a long time. Because it can be difficult to know how long food will keep, many items are labeled with an expiration date. In many cases, however, the expiration date is just a guideline and the food can be consumed after the expiration date.
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, 40 percent of food in America is wasted, and a big reason is that most people throw out food that is still good. While there are some expiration dates you should stick to, others can be considered loose guidelines. So how do you know the difference? Here are some of the expiration dates you can totally ignore and some you should never ignore.

Eggs are often good past their sell-by date.

It can be hard to tell if an egg is still safe to use without cracking it, but chances are it’s good for quite a while past its expiration date. You may have heard that old eggs will float if you put them in water. This is true, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the egg is unsafe to eat. Eggs are usually good for 3-5 weeks after purchase, but can last even longer if refrigerated properly.
The surest sign of a rotten egg is its smell. If you crack open an old egg and it emits an unpleasant odor, throw it (and the rest of the carton) in the trash.

Milk is usually safe after the expiration date.

In general, milk is good for up to a week after the sell-by date, but you should still sniff it to be sure. If the milk smells funky, has changed color, or has become thick and clotted, pour it down the sink.
Keeping your milk properly refrigerated will help it last longer. This means storing it on a shelf inside the refrigerator rather than on the door, where it’s exposed to temperature fluctuations.

Cheese usually lasts past its sell-by date.

The shelf life of cheese depends on the type of cheese, but they all tend to last beyond the expiration date. With cheese, the appearance of the product is more important than the date on the package. While sprouting mold may seem like a pretty good sign that the food should be thrown in the garbage, some cheeses (like Brie) naturally grow white mold that’s safe to eat. With the exception of blue cheeses, growths of orange, red, blue, or green mold are signs that your cheese has gone bad. In most cases, you can simply cut off the moldy part of the cheese and eat the rest.
Dry cheeses tend to last longer than moist cheeses. Be careful with pre-grated cheese, as mold that grows on grated cheese can’t be cut off and you’ll have to throw it all away. If the cheese looks and smells good, it’s probably safe to eat. Cheese tastes better over time, but that doesn’t mean your cheese has gone bad. However, if you feel a tingling sensation in your mouth after taking a bite, spit it out, because that means your cheese needs to be thrown away.

Raw meat has an expiration date for a reason.

Raw meat is one thing you should definitely check the expiration date on. Most meat, fish, and poultry should only be kept in the refrigerator for a few days, although thicker cuts of meat (such as a roast or steak) can last up to five days.
If you don’t plan to cook these foods within the first few days of purchase, store them in the freezer. Most meats can be frozen for months.

Honey will last well past its expiration date if stored properly.

Honey has a reputation for being a food that never spoils, so don’t worry too much about the expiration date. Because it has very little moisture, organisms can’t live in honey for very long, which means it’s very difficult for it to go bad.
That doesn’t mean you can just leave an open jar of honey on your counter. For honey to stay fresh, it can’t be exposed to moisture. To keep your honey fresh and sweet, seal it tightly and store it in a cool, dry place.

Some juices are good past their expiration date

These fruit juices may last longer than you think. Fruit juices are usually acidic, which means it’s harder for bacteria to grow in them. This means that fresh fruit juice is usually good past the sell-by date. Vegetable juice, however, is more likely to go bad around the expiration date, although it may last longer if it’s blended with fruit juice.Juices that aren’t made from fresh fruit usually have a lot of added sugar, which acts as a preservative.
In conclusion, while expiration dates are important indicators of food freshness and safety, there are certain items where you can be more flexible. Eggs, milk, cheese, honey, and certain juices can often be consumed past their expiration dates as long as they are stored properly and show no signs of spoilage. However, it is critical to follow the expiration date for raw meat, fish, and poultry to ensure food safety.
Understanding which expiration dates to watch for and which ones can be more lenient can help you reduce food waste and get the most out of your groceries. Remember to use your senses, such as smell and appearance, to determine if a food item is still safe to eat. With proper storage and a little knowledge, you can confidently navigate expiration dates and enjoy your food while minimizing waste.


Can I eat eggs after their expiration date?

Yes, eggs are often safe to eat past their expiration date, as long as they are properly refrigerated and show no signs of spoilage, such as a foul odor.

How long is milk good for after the expiration date?

Milk is generally good for up to one week after the sell-by date. However, it’s important to sniff it to make sure it hasn’t gone bad. If the milk smells funny or has changed in consistency, it’s best to throw it away.

Is it safe to eat cheese past its sell-by date?

Yes, most cheeses are safe to eat after the expiration date as long as there is no visible mold growth or offensive odor. Mold on certain cheeses, such as Brie, can be cut off, but if the mold is orange, red, blue, or green, it’s a sign that the cheese has gone bad.

Do I have to follow the expiration date for raw meat?

Yes, it’s important to follow the expiration date for raw meat, fish, and poultry. These perishable items can harbor harmful bacteria, so it’s important to follow the expiration date to ensure food safety.

Does honey ever spoil?

Honey has a long shelf life and does not spoil easily due to its low moisture content. As long as it is properly stored in a closed container in a cool, dry place, honey can last indefinitely.

Can fruit juice be consumed after its expiration date?

Fresh fruit juices, which are acidic, can usually be consumed past their expiration date if stored properly and show no signs of spoilage. However, vegetable juices are more susceptible to spoilage, so it’s best to follow the expiration date.

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