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Use By/Sell By

So my daughter rises at the crack of noon yesterday, makes herself a coffee and gets worried about the Half and Half because the sell by or use by was a day or so ago. I told her I had just used it and it was fine and to use the old fashioned method of nose and taste buds.

Which led me to think is it these arbitrary dates that cause waste? Not only in our kitchens but at the supermarket level where they are required to throw out food gone past the date even if it is not spoiled. Think of all that food, packaging and effort needed for a foodstore to get rid of it. I grew up in the days where you made your own decisions.

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    1. smartie, thanks to those here, I'm still using yogurt that is now out of date because I bought too much but it's still fine.

      We also just used up two half gallons of milk that stayed 'good' in their time line when some others don't.

      Look at the date on eggs! If I threw them out when their date was up, I would not have any eggs in the fridge.

      Yes, bottom line is that common sense and one's nose and eyes should dictate the expiration dates.

      I recently found, waaaay back in the fridge, a jar of cherries in liquor that my mother made for me. I hadn't looked at the date she wrote on the jar, until I saw the rust on the lid. She made them in 1997 -- no, I didn't eat them!

      Now THAT'S expired.........

      3 Replies
      1. re: dolores

        can yogurt last 27 days after sell by date

        1. re: mrreliz7

          If it has not been opened it can last much longer than that. Once opened it just depends on how cold it has been kept and the hygiene used when handling it.

        2. re: dolores

          If they were in vodka they are still just fine. They've been refrigerated and the alcohol has them preserved as well.

        3. The dates aren't arbitrary, they're guidelines for the way the vendors or manufacturers expect the food to be stored before and after it's sold. How long it really lasts for depends on how you stored it. To use an extreme example if you buy a loaf of bread and freeze it right away and eat it toasted from frozen two slices at a time you'll be eating it a week after the "best by" date and it will be fine. Same with milk if your fridge is really cold, but not if you left it in you car while you shopped for other things.

          1. Yep, there is CYA element to these dates. We all have to be smart on how we store and handle foodstuffs. I am happy that the dates exist, for decision-making upon purchase, but the subsequent storage is up to me.

            I am distressed, however, with the waste that comes along with dating and regulations. I don't yet have an opinion. Any of you have one (or a dozen :-) )?


            3 Replies
            1. re: cayjohan

              yes it was the waste I was considering not whether the goods are ok or not to consume.

              1. re: smartie

                smartie, if you (not "you,", but metaphorically) look at your cream container or cottage cheese carton, and notice that it's a day past the "by," and you throw it away and buy another, what do you have? A customer buying more. While I stand by the CYA liability aspects, I think there is built-in self-life stated on packaging that has nothing to do with ACTUAL shelf-life for many products.

                Yet more waste.


                1. re: smartie

                  For goods that have an expiry, companies do stability studies. The expiry is based on the shortest amount of time that the product will be last under the storage conditions outlined on the package. Other factors can affect it, but the expiry should be considered a minimum.

                  However, many of the factors you just have to guess at. You don't know how well it was handled during shipping or in the store, for example.

                  Use your best judgment, but it's not guaranteed that it will either be good up until the exp. date or bad a week past it.

                1. re: Janet

                  LOL! That reminds me of my all-time favourite Sally Forth comic strip, the one where she puts some leftovers into a tupperware into the fridge and Hilary says why are you putting that away? and Sally says because I can't throw out perfectly good food, to which Hilary says well you're just going to leave it there until it turns green and throw it out anyway. To which Sally says yeah but then it's not perfectly good food...

                2. There would be waste without these dates. There will always be people throwing out food on the better safe than sorry principle. But those dates cause a new type of waste perhaps. I select the milk carton with the furthest date. Perhaps the store has trouble selling the close dated food? Though, maybe most consumers don't check the date. I've had so much milk go bad before the date, though, that I always pick the farthest one to maximize my chances with it.

                  I appreciate having the built in reminder on the food packages in my fridge that indicate how long I've had it in there. Some products are perfectly edible if kept a long time, but they are no longer as delicious. Mustard, for example, is markedly zippier if fresh. I'd prefer to buy new mustard and dump the old into some recipe that doesn't really matter to me. Dates help keep that concept in my mind.

                  There was one time I wish I had read the dates. I bought some soy sauce that was years past expiration, but I didn't realize until I'd gotten it home. I'm sure it was still edible, but if I plan on keeping it a year or two in turn, then it is past delicious, in my mind.

                  1. For the most detailed and accurate interpretation of the dates take a look at the US FDA information at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Factsheets/F...

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: mexivilla

                      Some good info there. Should answer a lot of "Is it still good?" posts.
                      Also states that most dates are actually a "Best if Used By" and NOT an expiration date.

                    2. A few months ago I ate a small can of tuna packed in water 18 months past best by date. Did it at work and freaked out a person or two. I'm fine, wait, eyesite blurry, headache and chills, call 91... thud. Seriously, we push it here a bit in Casa James y Mi dear Espousa. On a related note, I had a guy at work who was very concerned about taking an ibuprofen one day past expiration. Edit, talk about your past due date, just realized I respnded to a four year old thread!!!!!!!!!!

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: James Cristinian

                        An ibuprofen? Wow, I've taken those several years past the expiration date. I always marvel how all the headache meds can be so far out of date my my stepfather's summer cabin given the amount of hangovers earned while there.

                        1. re: Jackie007

                          Expiration date doesn't contain enough nuance for some to differentiate between "loses effectiveness" and "is possibly bad." Obviously, with ibuprofen, it doesn't suddenly become bad past the date. It may not be as strong as it once was, however.

                      2. They certainly do cause waste if people take them too literally......... as many seem to. My son and your daughter should get together...... NOT! He is freaked out when he finds something in our fridge that is past even the Sell By date. Past the Use By date and he goes slightly nuts.

                        My father-in-law, when he was in his early 90's and had lost a lot of his vision, used to sometimes eat spoiled food because he couldn't see it...... until we were able to get someone to go through his fridge every few days when we couldn't be there. Amazingly enough, he never got sick from any of it. That made me believe less in visibility than in smell. Penicillin WAS discovered in mold......... wasn't it? ;o]]]]c

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Midlife

                          Ouch....my husband found LIQUID onions and potatoes at his dad's house.

                        2. Tell your daughter that I just ate a tube of GoGurt with a sell by date of December 03, 2009. It's strawberry-kiwi flavored and there were 4 tubes left that nobody wanted to eat and then they got pushed to the back of the refrigerator. I noticed them a while back and know they are in there and I've been waiting for an excuse to try one. It was fine. Now I'll keep them in the back of the refrigerator and try another 6 months or a year from now and see what happens.

                          If I stop posting you'll know how I met my demiise.

                          The six year old Twinkies in the cupboard are still good too. Well, maybe not good, but they are still as good as they were intended.

                          We regularly shop at a store that is full of 'expired' food items. They get produce from the mainstream grocers that is supposedly past its prime and the refrigerator and freezer and shelves are full of stuff that is past the 'best by' dates. It is a discount food store and none of the food will harm you, the quality might just not be as good. We're careful about what we buy there. Most of the produce is just as good as at the regular grocery stores except the berry type fruit. Yesterday I bought two bundles of fresh asparagus, a little over a pound each, for $1 per bundle. It was fine. I'm sure the GoGurt was past its best by date when we bought it (but that is an extreme case).

                          1 Reply
                          1. I figure that if the use by date is, say July 31, then the milk was STARTING to go bad several days earlier, say by the 26th. As I don't want to drink something that is startiing to go bad, I throw it out several days BEFORE the use by date. It's the only safe thing to do. Sometime, to be really safe, I'll buy a gallon of milk, get home from the store, and then just throw it out.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: bobbert

                              So much safer to just THINK about buying the milk rather than actually leaving the safe cocoon of the house and venturing into the filth of the world...


                            2. As I've said elsewhere, I treat use by/sell by dates like horoscopes ... for entertain purposes only.

                              1. Can't you still make your own decision, using the sell-by date as a guide? For example, when I saw a gelatin salad package at a very posh market and the sell-by date was five months in the past, I made the decision not to buy it. Also, to be really careful there in the future.