The other day I got the milk out of the fridge and it didn’t look good. When I opened the bottle and it didn’t smell good either. Based on the expiration date, I shouldn’t have bad milk for at least another 4 days. I obliviously couldn’t prepare my kids cereal with that milk. Furthermore, I start to wonder what “food expiration dates” really mean? So I did some research.
I found out that there is no substitute to common sense and dates stamped on the packaging of the food you buy can be quite confusing. For example, "sell by" is more a guide for the store to know how long it can display a product for sale. The "best before" or "best if used by" date usually refers to a quality or flavor of the food. "Use by" works more like an expiration date, similar to that on medicines, and taking them after the date is not recommended. However, when it comes to raw meat, you should be extra careful. Food safety experts recommend that consumers should either eat or freeze any type of raw meat within two days of buying. If you decide to freeze your ground meat, remember that it needs to be consumed within three months of being frozen.
Now, let’s talk about my “milk situation”. I learned that milk starts deteriorating in quality quite quickly. Pasteurized milk may remain fresh for five days after its sell-by date. Interestingly, milk can lose vitamins when exposed to light, which is why it usually comes in opaque plastic or paperboard. Generally speaking, dairy and raw meat should be kept in the low 30 degrees Fahrenheit, while the home refrigerator's temperature is set around 40 degrees to keep other things in the fridge (like vegetables) from freezing. Therefore, you should place these products where your refrigerator is the coldest.
When it comes to canned food, most high-acid can stay on shelves for twelve to eighteen months. Low acid foods, such as fish, meat, and some vegetables can be used for two to five years if stored properly. If the can is budging, that means it's infected by some unwanted bacteria and should not be eaten.