The Shelf Life of Your Food Does Not Mean Anything

Sell to, it is best if used, will expire displayed before; The shelf life of food products seem clearly defined, specific issue, but it is not: it varies depending on the region and type of products. In the end, these labels mean almost nothing, which leads to both food waste and to a safe assumption.

Whence came the expiry dates

The origin of shelf life – a classic life hacking. By the 1970s, Americans stopped buying products on farms and in small grocery stores and began to buy most of their food at grocery stores. While manufacturers have begun to use special codes like the one above, which reported the supermarkets when stocks should be updated. As you would expect someone to decipher these codes and produced a small book called ” Blind Date: how to break codes for the products that you buy” . As the name suggests, the book is introduced consumers to the principles of operation codes, so they can buy the freshest produce. To understand how all this works then in this article published in 1978 in the Deseret News, you will find out what the process was like this.

As soon as more and more consumers to break codes, more and more people began to ask any type of labels for their food. In this case, supermarkets and food suppliers to voluntarily began adding to their power of life of the product. Over time sale dates have become commonplace, but the consistency – no.

In the mid-70s, Congress introduced several bills regulating expiration dates, such as the Law of perishable food products in 1973 and the Law on the fair packaging and labeling, but they all failed. Thus, states have taken on this issue, so you see certain types of expiration dates in a single state, but do not see in the other. States such as Utah, Idaho, South Dakota, Nebraska and some others do not require any labels. In other states, including California, Pennsylvania and Virginia, require labeling only milk and shellfish.

If you’re wondering how the system is fragmented in this report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (PDF) explains in detail what states require any tags. In fact, in the last 40 after the expiration of the term of the odd years turned into confusion, because requirements vary from state to state.

Nobody really does not regulate the expiry dates

For the exception of infant formula , the federal government has never intervened to regulate the expiration dates. Because of this we have different terminology, which means different things . In most cases, these labels describe the quality of food and have nothing to do with food safety. As an example, let’s look at some of the most common terms:

  • Sell through: it says the supermarket, how long you need to show the product before its reserves will be updated.
  • Use up or Shelf Life: indicates when to use the product to achieve the best taste, and has nothing to do with food safety.
  • Date of expiration: expiration date usually means the date of the last date when you can eat food.

For most packaged foods, these dates are usually left to the discretion of the food manufacturer. They usually work with third-party companies, such as of The National Food Food Lab , which conducted tests to see how long it takes to produce soured, and how much storage stable packaged food … For example, they leave the products on the shelf for a few weeks and create a rating system to describe its quality over time. And sometimes it’s just a taste sample. In other cases, the matter is, it looks like the food, and has nothing to do with taste or nutritional value. In any case, this is not a particularly scientific or indicator of actual food safety, and it’s all very subjective. NPR to analyze in detail exactly how the process works :

Experts evaluation result of food in the figures. The figures are reduced to the extent that, as the food gets older. Bread becomes stale. Salad dressings can become rancid.

John Ruff , president of the Institute of Food Technology in Chicago, said that the companies selling these foods, look at the class and decide where they will hold the line to protect the reputation of its products.

“If the product has been developed, for example, by 7 points when it was fresh, you can select it by 6.2, and he came to the point where [you] do not want it to appear again on the market”, – says he. …

“If it is 6.0, most people would still find it good enough? That’s right, – he says. “But companies want people tried their products as best as possible and optimally, because that is how they support the business and its market share.”

All of this suggests that the majority of working lives, regardless of the terminology used, mainly related to the “quality” of food, a certain manufacturer. They rarely have any relation to the safety of these products or a possible spoilage.

It is impossible to determine the exact date on which the food is spoiled

We like to think that there is a measurable data that will tell us when the food will go bad, but there are too many variables for something so simple. This is a real problem with the food shelf life.

How long do food costs in the truck, waiting for unloading at the grocery store, how long it is in your car on the way home, how long she stands on the counter before you uncheck it, and much more – all affect the schedule of food spoilage. It can even go down to your refrigerator temperature (which should be at 40 ° F or below), or even to the place where you store food in your fridge .

More importantly, expired food does not guarantee that you will get sick. It simply means that the food is not that tasty. You usually get sick with foodborne pathogens such as salmonella or E. coli , which can live in your food before you buy it, or even after you cook it if you don’t cook it properly. There are no labels or deadlines to guarantee that your food is free of bacteria that can cause disease. Bacterial growth is time and temperature dependent, so proper food handling is more important than a printed date. For the same reason, food stays in the freezer longer than it does in your refrigerator – the freezer does not kill all bacteria, but it slows down their growth slightly and stops the growth of bacteria. Either way, spoiled food can taste bad (and there is no point in eating it if you don’t need it), but that alone doesn’t make it unsafe.

What to do instead of relying on expiration date

So if the dates are mostly arbitrary, what can you do? Well, the sniff test is still your best bet. If it smells bad, it tastes bad. Your eyes can also tell you a lot. If the food looks spoiled, it probably is. Likewise, some meats, such as chicken, become slimy and dull when spoiled. We all have an innate ability to tell if food is appetizing, spicy, or rotten. Trust your feelings.

Apart from that, there are a few more basic guidelines that can help. The above USDA chart is a helpful guide to get started. If you want to know about the durability of certain packaged and open source products on sites such as StillTasty and Eat By Date, there are plenty of tips on how long foods stored in the refrigerator or frozen. More importantly, both sites give you tips for determining when food goes bad, so this is helpful when you’re doing a smell test and you’re not sure if what you smell is as bad as it sounds.

Finally, it is best to store food properly so that it lasts as long as you need it. Improper handling of food, such as defrosting frozen chicken wings at room temperature for six hours, affects safety more than anything else, so make sure you follow basic defrosting guidelines . Watch out for mold or other signs of spoilage and cook food carefully and properly to avoid contamination.

The fact of the matter is that expiration date, no matter what language it is used in, means little. While they’re worth taking a look at when you’re at the grocery store, they are useless afterward and certainly not worth the faith most of us put into them. We can do much better with our eyes and nose.


Leave a Reply