What Do Expiration Dates Really Mean?

Have you ever noticed inconsistencies in the dates that appear on the food that you buy? Some are "sell by" dates, some say, "best if used by", others say, "expiration" and others just have a date printed on them, with no explanation of what it represents. What about that carton of milk that has never been opened, but is two days past the date on the lid? Or the eggs whose date passed two weeks prior? Should you go ahead and use these? Throw them away? It's pretty confusing to decipher all of these dates, and often distressing to have to decide between consuming something that's past its date, and risk getting sick, or to throw it away, and risk wasting perfectly good food.

Fortunately, a number of people have researched this conundrum and finally, we have some pretty concrete answers. In a recent article appearing in Slate, food writer Nadia Arumugam argues that we should be less concerned about dates and more aware of what spoiled or spoiling food looks and smells like. The dates on our food have more to do with freshness than quality and relate to when a product was packaged as opposed to predicting a specific date in which our food will no longer be edible. How long your food will last, and how fresh it is, depends on factors such as how the food is handled, how fresh it was before it was packaged, how it was stored during each phase of its processing and how it was handled and stored after you purchased it.

It never hurts to have a little bit of help in determining how long different foods should last under ideal handling and storage conditions, and for that you should look to a website called StillTasty.com. With this site, you can search through thousands of food items, from dairy to meat, dried herbs to beverages, and get a pretty accurate idea of how long certain items should last. Still Tasty also guides you through troves of commonly asked questions such as those pertaining to food purchasing and storage, defrosting, freezing and more.

The consensus among experts is that your best defense it to use common sense, rather than relying on expiration dates. Use your eyes and nose first and if something looks discolored, is moldy or has an off smell, don't take any chances, just discard it. If, however, something looks and smells perfectly fine and has been stored at proper temperatures the whole time you've had it, chances are it's safe to eat, even if it is past the date on the package. It's never worth taking a risk and possibly getting food poisoning, but at the same time, it's wasteful to discard perfectly safe food based on a random date that has little bearing on quality. In the long run, the decision is left up to the individual, but the better informed you are, the better the chances are that you’ll make the right decisions.

Browse Culinary Arts Schools & Colleges

Refine School Matches
Hide filters
  • SUBJECT

    See More

  • DEGREE

    See More

  • PROGRAM TYPE

  • START TIME

    LOCATION
    Please enter valid US or Canada Zip.
            Results open in new window

            Searching Searching ...

            Matching School Ads
            5 Program(s) Found
            • Alumni have appeared in reality competition shows such as Top Chef and Project Runway.
            • Has a team of about 4,000 faculty members focused on helping students tap opportunities in a marketplace driven by ideas.
            • Offers programs in design, media arts, fashion, and culinary.
            • Provides program coordinators who work with students to ensure they have the learning materials, assignments, facilities, and faculty to get the most out of the program.
            • Over 50 campus locations nationwide.
            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            1 Program(s) Found

            Baker College is the largest independent college in Michigan with the most focused approach to education and training available. Our mission is to prepare you for meaningful employment.

            1 Program(s) Found
            • Ranked among the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
            • Lets undergrad students try classes before paying any tuition.
            • Has an average class sizes of 18 for undergraduate and 13 for graduate-level courses.
            • Offers numerous scholarship opportunities that can help students save up to $750 per term on their tuition.
            • Tends to educate degree-seeking online and campus-based students who are adult learners with families and students who work while pursuing higher education.
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Online Courses
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            5 Program(s) Found
            • Received the 2015 and 2013 “Cooking School of the Year” Award of Excellence from the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP).
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
            • Externship opportunities are available at numerous famous New York City restaurants.
            • Campus is located near downtown Manhattan, within walking distance of many popular attractions such as the Radio City Music Hall.
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            4 Program(s) Found
            • Hands-on culinary education with focused attention on each student
            • An ACCSC School of Excellence with multiple “Best Vocational Cooking School” awards*
            • 15,000 graduates, including celebrities like Bobby Flay, David Chang, and Christina Tosi*
            • Programs in Culinary Entrepreneurship, Professional Culinary Arts, Professional Pastry Arts, and much more
            • Campuses in New York and Silicon Valley with nearby housing available
            Show more [+]
            2 Program(s) Found
            • Students get real-world experience through the required externship at the end of the program.
            • Curriculum includes laboratory sessions, academic preparation and hands-on experience.
            • Program objectives are to provide students with skills needed for cooking wholesome, attractive, food preparations and to assist graduates in obtaining positions in the food service industry.
            • Accredited by the American Culinary Federation (ACF).
            • Has campuses in Melbourne, Sarasota, and Tallahassee, Florida
            Show more [+]
            3 Program(s) Found
            • Has been training students in the culinary arts since 1946.
            • Teaches hands-on culinary training in French, Asian, Mediterranean, Latin and American cooking, along with professional baking and pastry techniques.
            • Helps students gain professional skills in culinary management.
            • Offers an Italian Culinary Arts program where students get to externship in Italy.
            • Its instructors are respected chefs who put their dedication and life experiences into their instruction.
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Accredited
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid