Have you ever looked inside your cabinet, under your sink or in your pantry and wondered how long your products have been stored there?
Do you ever check the expiration date before you use a product?
An expiration date indicates a product’s shelf life. A universal image like the one in the picture above has the shelf life on it. It is typically located on the back of a product on the bottom left or right corner.
According to the federal Food and Drug Administration, a product’s shelf life refers to the length of time you can expect a product to look and act as expected and stay safe to use. Once products expire, no matter how much may be left to use, a product will lose its effectiveness.
For example, maybe you have a skincare product like a moisturizer or sunscreen that has expired. You put them on, but you are you are coating your complexion with something no longer offering benefits. The effects from using expired products can be worse than a loss of potency, including irritation and breakouts.
For food or other perishable items, the “Use by” or “Discard by” date refers to the date that foods can be safely be used. After this date, bacteria that lives in foods can drastically increase, making food unsafe to eat. The rate at which bacteria grows is different for each food. If consumed, the contamination of bacteria growth from an expired item can cause severe food poisoning.
Most shelf-stable foods are safe indefinitely. In fact, canned goods will last for years, if the can itself is in good condition (no rust, dents, or swelling).
Packaged foods (cereal, pasta, cookies) will be safe past the ‘best by’ date, although they may eventually become stale or develop an off flavor. You can independently determine at your own risk whether you want to consume the item if it is past the expiration date.
Recommendations for regulating expiration dates:
- When stocking your pantry, put new items in the back so that you are reaching for items that are closer to their expiration date
- Freeze foods you know you won’t eat right away
- At the grocery store, check the “Use by” date before purchasing to guarantee freshness
- Plan your meals
- Don’t buy a tons of a product if it is on sale and let it rot in your pantry – donate to a food pantry it if you don’t plan to eat it soon
- Clean out your pantry on a regular basis
To be on the safe side, before using something, check the expiration date. Then throw it out if it has expired.