So How Long Is That FOOD Good For?

So How Long Is That FOOD Good For?

David felt sick and queasy and he did not know why.

groceries milk

Millions of consumers in the US are confused about what food is safe to buy. Review of the entire situation in the literature and the government web sites reveals that the FDA and USDA do not require any labeling at all with just a few exceptions. 99.9 % of food is voluntarily labeled by the manufacturer. Most food dating just applies to the quality of the food and not the safety. Most important to realize is that the storage conditions are more important than most factors. If the coleslaw says it is “best by” January 2, 2010 it doesn’t mean it still is good. The coleslaw may have not been refrigerated for 12 hours during the recent blackout by the snowstorm. The store may have just let the refrigerators turn back on and the now spoiled infected coleslaw is up for sale again! It is cold and has a good date, so how are we supposed to know?? We don’t. We take our chances…with our health and our families’ health.


Some may make fun but sniffing the food and examining it before we eat it, cook it, prepare it, or otherwise later consume it is not a bad idea at all. It is far from perfect but if your meat, milk, juice, vegetables, fruit etc do not smell right then it would be very ill advised to eat it. It is just not worth it.


Some 20 states have regulations regarding product dating but they are only guidelines. More important is the storage and the transport home. Your refrigerator should be about 36 degrees. If the power goes out the bugs goes in. It is much safer to eat fresh food that was just bought than leaving it in the house too long. Once we have passed the best by date then we do take more chances. It should be kept in mind that once the package, can or container is opened the best by date no longer applies! Dented, rusted, swollen cans should not be consumed or given to boyscouts.














This is to let the retailer know when to pull it from the shelf. It usually is good for a few days beyond this time but I think we might be taking chances.


Product is at peak quality until after this date.


Last date of good quality.

The best advice is to make sure that your food is as fresh as possible, stored at the right temperature and consumed as soon as possible. In the future all food will have little chips that record the temperature it has been exposed to the entire time the package has been in existence so the consumer has a way to know if it is ok. Spoilage indicator strips that turn a color when the food is to be disposed might be even better. Since there are at least 76 million food borne illnesses and 325,000 hospitalizations and 5000 deaths each year in the US we would all feel better if we were just a little more careful. If the government required better markers on our food to assure us it was SAFE TO EAT, it probably would result in overall less cost to all of us.

Key Points:

Dates on food –“It is not a safety date.”

  • There is no federal requirement to label expired foods, except for infant formula
  • Eat food that is fresh

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