Food Expiration Dates Are Terribly Misleading

Next time you read the expiration date for a food product, take it with a grain of salt. The dates printed on these products are misleading and here is why.


Are you one of the 90 percent of Americans who throw away food once it passes the expiration date printed on the package? If so, then you should know that you may have thrown away perfectly edible food. A common misconception is that these dates are meant to tell you when these foods will go bad, but the truth is that it's almost impossible to tell exactly when something will spoil.

Predicting When Food Will Spoil Is Almost Impossible

Predicting When Food Will Spoil Is Almost ImpossibleBenzinga

The reason why it's so hard to predict when food will go bad is because of all the different factors that can influence the rate of spoilage. For instance, if you bought two jugs of milk and accidentally left one in the car for an hour longer, that milk will most likely spoiler much faster than the other jug of milk.

Old Food Doesn't Make You Sick, Contamination Does

Old Food Doesn't Make You Sick, Contamination DoesNation of Change

Another misconception is that old food will make you sick. What actually makes you sick is when food gets contaminated. Items like seafood and meat will become contaminated over time, but something like graham crackers won't.

Dates Don't Determine Freshness

Dates Don't Determine FreshnessProgressive Grocer

What about freshness? Surely the dates must signify how fresh the product is? Sorry to break it to you, but these dates don't even tell you how fresh the product is. When these dates became a standard practice, the Food and Drug Administration had no control over what dates were placed on food.

Expiration Dates Depend On Taste Testers

Expiration Dates Depend On Taste TestersCBC Hamilton

One interesting fact about these dates is that they're determined by taste testers. The company will have taste testers try a product at different ages. The age when the product starts tasting funny is the time span these companies will use as an expiration date. For smaller companies, they usually just guessimate their expiration dates.

"Best If Sold By," "Expiration Date," "Freshness Date"

"Best If Sold By," "Expiration Date," "Freshness Date"Examiner

The labels used for the dates printed on food products are inconsistent at best. The terms like "expiration date" and "best if sold by" vary from state to state. There are also no standard legal definitions to explain what these phrases mean.

Expiration Dates Make Food More Expensive

Expiration Dates Make Food More ExpensiveThe Richest Man

In Montana, law prohibits the selling or donation of food that's 12 days past the expiration date. A Montana supermarket manager told the podcast "99% Invisible" that his store had to throw away hundreds of gallons of milk every week. Throwing out so much milk has in turn raised the price of milk in Montana, making it two dollars more expensive than milk from nearby states.

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