How to Read Expiration Dates on Food, Medicine and Beauty Products
Have you ever wondered what those dates on the labels of your food, medicine and beauty products mean? Are they telling you when the product will go bad or when it will lose its effectiveness? How can you tell if something is still safe to use after the date has passed? Here are some tips to help you understand expiration dates and how to use them wisely.
What is an expiration date?
An expiration date or expiry date is a date that indicates the last day that a product will be at its best quality, according to the manufacturer. It is not a safety date, meaning that the product may still be safe to use after the date, but it may not be as fresh, tasty or effective as before. Expiration dates are not required by federal law for most products, except for infant formula . They are added by the producers based on their own testing and standards.
How to read expiration dates?
There are two types of expiration dates: open dates and closed dates. Open dates are meant for consumers and use words like “use by”, “sell by” or “best by” to indicate when the product will be at its peak quality . Closed dates are meant for manufacturers and use codes or numbers to show when the product was made. Here are some examples of how to read open dates:
- “Use by” date: This is the last date recommended for using the product while it is at its best quality. It is not a safety date, so you can still use the product after this date if it looks and smells good. For example, yogurt may have a “use by” date of May 15th, but you can still eat it after that date if it has been stored properly and has no signs of spoilage.
- “Sell by” date: This is the last date that the store should sell the product. It is not a safety date, so you can still use the product after this date if it looks and smells good. For example, eggs may have a “sell by” date of May 10th, but you can still use them for 3 to 5 weeks after that date if they have been refrigerated and have no cracks.
- “Best by” date: This is the date that the product will be at its best flavor or quality. It is not a safety date, so you can still use the product after this date if it looks and smells good. For example, cookies may have a “best by” date of May 20th, but you can still eat them after that date if they have been stored in an airtight container and have no mold.
How to use expiration dates wisely?
Expiration dates are helpful guides, but they are not absolute rules. You should always check the quality of the product before using it, regardless of the date on the label. Here are some tips to help you use expiration dates wisely:
- Store your products properly according to the instructions on the label. For example, keep refrigerated products in the fridge, keep dry products in a cool and dark place, and keep beauty products away from heat and sunlight.
- Use your senses to check for signs of spoilage or deterioration. For example, look for changes in color, texture or appearance, smell for bad odors, and taste for sour or bitter flavors. If something looks, smells or tastes bad, throw it out.
- Use common sense and follow safety guidelines for different types of products. For example, don’t use medicine that has changed color or texture, don’t use beauty products that have separated or become lumpy, and don’t eat food that has mold or bacteria growth.
- Don’t waste your products by throwing them out too soon. If they are still good after the expiration date, you can use them up or donate them to someone who needs them. However, don’t risk your health by using products that are clearly spoiled or expired.
Expiration dates are useful tools to help you know when a product will be at its best quality, but they are not definitive indicators of safety or effectiveness.