How often do you pay attention to the dates printed on the packages of the foods that you buy? When was the last time you consciously picked a packaged food product in the market and checked its ‘expiry date’ before buying or eating it? What do you do to foods whose ‘expiry dates’ have been exceeded? Throw them away? I remembered buying one of these popular packaged sausage roll in town; I was very hungry that I just unwrapped it and took a bite without checking for the date printed on it. Then, unconsciously, my eyes traveled along the wrapper and there I saw the date! The ‘expiry date’ was some days back. I felt like I had eaten poison. So what did I do? Sure, you can guess! But does it mean that a food product with an expired date cannot be consumed? Do the dates on food packages always refer to when a food will ‘go bad’ or ‘spoilt’? Not always! The different dates on food packages do not always refer to when a food will go bad or get spoilt; these dates are sometimes used to indicate quality and not food safety. Knowing what the dates on food packages means can prevent unnecessary food waste or food safety problems. Different terms are been used to refer to the period after which the condition of a food product may start to decline. These dates are often given by the manufacturer of the food product.
- An ‘expiration date’ means the last date a food product should be eaten or used; that a food is not safe to consume after this date. Therefore, it is better not to consume such food product whose expiration date has been reached.
- A ‘best before’ or ‘best if used by’ date is often recommended for a period when the flavor or quality of a food is best, beyond this date, the freshness and nutritional value of such product begin to reduce. This doesn’t mean the food product cannot be used after this date.
- A ‘Pull-by’ or ‘Sell-by’ date is often used to represent the last date a product should be sold; how long a food can be sold. It is best to purchase such food product before the date expires. It is expected that after this date, such food product should not be sold to consumers again.
- A ‘Use-by’ date is the last date recommended for the use of a product in order to have the best quality of such product as determined by the product producer. After this date, the product may remain safe with proper storage and handling.
- A ‘packaged date’ indicates when the food was manufactured, processed, and packaged.