The truth about expiration dates

Melanie Jewkes, Associate Professor at Utah State University Extension deciphers the truth when it comes to expiration dates.

Shop the refrigerator first:
- Use what you have before it goes bad. Reheat or remake. Chop and eat.
• Using bananas kids don`t eat for smoothies or apples for overnight oatmeal, Taco salad of leftovers
- How long can you keep leftovers? - USDA recommends 3-4 days (can freeze for longer, 3-4 months, but quality can reduce)
• Food safety: reheat leftovers to sufficient temperature - 165 degrees
- Read the label; know your expiration dates
• Except for infant formula, product dating is NOT required by Federal regulations. We might throw away too much because we think it is bad.

Did you know there is a difference between use by, sell by, and best by?
• Sell by: tells store how long to display product. Not a safety date. Consumers should eat or freeze within 3-5 days of date (meat)
• Use by: refers to peak quality, not a safety date (except infant formula); perishable foods it relates to date from a microbiological standpoint; found on fresh and chilled foods like bagged salads
• Best by: not a purchase date; not a safety date: product has best quality and flavor; found on canned fruits and veggies
 'The "best if used by" date is not a safety-related date, but instead is the recommended date for best flavor or quality. Even if the "best if used by" date has passed on a food you have at home, it should be safe if stored and handled properly.'
• If date passes, a product should still be safe and wholesome if handled properly until time of spoilage (off odor, flavor or texture due to naturally occurring spoilage bacteria)—spoilage does not cause illness, affects the wholesomeness of the food
• Moisture, time and temperatures affect how quickly a food will spoil, so be sure you know what food you have and eat before it spoils.
- Stilltasty.com - shelf life guide, or call your local extension office
- Or app: is my food safe?

2. Purchase wisely
- Buy good quality food—no mold, bruises or cuts
- Only buy what you will eat. If you`re trying new things, buy small amounts to avoid waste.
- Purchase in season fruits and vegetables for optimal freshness, flavor and cost.
• Fresh, local foods often are more flavorful—check out local farmers markets this season.
 SNAP users can get up to $10 of free produce at markets that accept EBT cards.
• Find out more by googling 'double up food bucks Utah' or check with your extension office or health department.

You can get more great information from the Utah State University Extension here.