What Do “Best By” Dates On Food Really Mean?

Have you ever found yourself wondering about the “best by” date on food items? Are they still safe to eat even though the date has passed? How long will your favorite food or beverage stay safe? Surprisingly, the answer is not on the date label. Most date labels tell you about food quality, not safety. We suggest using your own senses and judgment to determine if food looks, smells, and feels safe to eat.⁣ 

Here are a few key tips:

  • Fatty foods spoil more quickly. This is why nuts, brown rice, and whole wheat flour spoil within a few months but white flour and white rice can last for years. Storing tree nuts or bread in the freezer helps extend their life.⁣
  • Condiments, instant oats, vinegars, honey, sugar, salt, and cooking extracts or syrup will last virtually forever with little change in quality. ⁣
  • Dried beans and lentils can last years but may be tougher to cook and digest as time goes on. ⁣
  • Other than losing potency, spices rarely expire. Storing oils and spices away from the heat of the stove and sunlight helps preserve their freshness.⁣
  • If you’re concerned with milk going bad, look for “Ultra High Temperature” pasteurization (UHT) on the label.⁣ This means the milk has been processed in a way that keeps it safe for consumption for longer.

Read more about food labels and which foods to look out for.

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