It can be disappointing to reach into the fridge for a carton of yogurt and realize the expiration date has passed. Now you are faced with a dilemma. Do you consume that carton of creamy goodness, or do you toss it out to avoid the risk of eating spoiled food? Some foods give clear, visible signs when they have spoiled. Others seem perfectly fine, yet the fear of food poisoning may prevent you from enjoying them. Here are some facts on food expiration dates, and how to determine if a food is safe to eat past the printed date on the label.
9. Food Product Dating
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), product dating is provided by food manufacturers to let the consumer know when the food will be of the best quality. These dates are not “safety” dates, but rather “quality” dates. There are three types of dates printed on food packaging. The “sell by” date tells the store how long to keep the product on the shelf. A “best if used by/before” date indicates how long a product will maintain peak flavor or quality. Finally, the “use by” date is the last date at which the highest quality is guaranteed. This does not indicate the safety of food, with the exception of infant formula.
8. Milk and Dairy Products
According to the USDA, milk and dairy products may be safely consumed as long as they have been properly stored and show no signs of spoilage. Keep milk and dairy products such as cheese and yogurt in the refrigerator at temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Milk should be kept in the interior of the refrigerator where temperatures are cooler, not in the door. To check for spoilage, give milk a good sniff. If it smells sour or has curdled, discard it.