How Important Are Food Expiration Dates?

List: Posted: 03/03/11

We’ve all opened the cupboard to make some food, only to see that the grocery store expiration date has passed or noticed that the milk was a day beyond the use by date.  Expiration dates can often seem somewhat arbitrary.  Sure, they are there to give a general idea of when food should no longer be used, but are they really that specific?  Let's look at just how accurate these dates are.

When it comes to milk, you will usually see a “sell by” date.  Generally, the milk is still good to drink for a week after this date.  The rule is about three to five weeks after the “sell by” for eggs.  For seafood and poultry, you need to cook or freeze the food within about two days, while with fresh beef or pork from the butcher, you have from three to five days.  With these guidelines, you can generally ensure that your food is always safe.

Of course canned food is the most commonly questioned.  For the longest shelf-life, always keep cans out of direct heat, and you will find that most veggies can sit for up to five years.  With really acidic food such as tomatoes, however, you should probably toss them after about eighteen months.

Ultimately, while you don’t want to eat your yogurt a couple of weeks after it is expired, cereal and veggies will be just fine provided you keep cereal bags unopened and veggies in an airtight container. 


Most dates are freshness guaranteed dates, and you will find that while things might not be just as fresh, nonperishable items will taste just fine if eaten days or even weeks after the sell-by date.

Grocery Stores And Supermarkets

  • 43670 Greenway Corp Dr
  • Ashburn, VA 20147
  • (571) 223-3848
  • 43330 Junction Plz
  • Ashburn, VA 20147
  • (703) 723-2160
  • 44110 Ashburn Shopping Plz
  • Ashburn, VA 20147
  • (703) 729-3877
  • 43670 Greenway Corporate Dr Ste 791
  • Ashburn, VA 20147
  • (571) 223-1796

The material in this article is for informational purposes only. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of See Additional Information

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