Understanding “Best By” Dates to Avoid Food Waste

By Heide Kennedy, Arizona Farm Bureau Communications Intern

Whenever we buy a food product, there is usually a “Best By” date somewhere on the package. Often, we see this date and think that the product is all of a sudden spoiled after that date passes. But is that really the case?

Food Labels

Make sure you understand these commonly used terms on food labels (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

According to the Food and Drug Administration, consumers misunderstanding these dates is responsible for about 20% of all food waste.

Here are some quick tips and facts from the FDA about these dates.

  • Except for infant formula, a date that indicates quality is not required by federal law.
  • These “Best By” dates are meant to indicate how long the product will be at its peak of freshness and quality, not when it will be spoiled.
  • The best way to tell if a product is truly expired or not is to assess its smell, taste, texture, and consistency. If there is a change in one of these, then the product probably shouldn’t be consumed.
  • If you have any questions or concerns, many companies put their contact information on the back of the package as well and are available to answer your questions.

So, when your milk is one day past the date, don’t worry, it is probably still completely fine to use! If it “smells bad and looks chunky,” then that is a different story! Just remember that the “Best By” dates are there for reference, not as a cut-off for how long a product can be used!

For more food articles, check out the Fill Your Plate blog!

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