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What do the expiration dates of food and medicine really mean


ForumDaily Woman

How do we usually check the suitability of products? We open the refrigerator, take out, for example, cheese and see if there is mold on it, and if not, we say: “Honey, smell it!” Of course, this is not the best way to check freshness. The generally accepted method is the product labeling system, writes

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According to studies, about 20% of products are thrown away by consumers while still usable due to misunderstanding of the dates indicated on the packaging. The average US family spends $275-$455 a year to dispose of unused food. Air force.

Due to a misguided concern for food safety, 91% of consumers throw away food after the date indicated with the phrase sell by, which has nothing to do with the safety of this product at all and is a recommendation for the store.

As manufacturers explain, 37% of consumers throw away food after the date listed as use by, while it defines the period of "highest quality" of the product. In fact, the only information you can get from the date on the packaging is how long the product has been on the shelf in the store.

How to find out when the product went bad

Manufacturers can add a wide variety of ingredients or preservatives to their products to prolong shelf life. But no matter what the manufacturer uses, no product can last forever. Each manufacturing company conducts research on its product to determine when it crosses the line of "inedibility" and can harm the consumer's body.

In most cases, manufacturers use marking to identify such a date. use by, that is, from this moment on, the use of the product may be unsafe. At the same time, in most cases, companies indicate the date a few days earlier before the onset of the actual inedibility of the product. But there is no standard for the duration of this "safety factor", so it can be either one day or a week.

Some companies do not use research data for their product to determine this date, but an already existing "calculator" of the shelf life of each product, given its composition. Therefore, the dates indicated on such products may be very approximate and do not mean at all that after their occurrence the product became unsafe.

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Even the best calculated dates are only recommendations.

Food safety is in the hands of the consumer. He must store them at an appropriate temperature and in a hygienic environment.

If a product has an expiration date on its packaging, the consumer should follow that date to determine when to use or freeze it. If there is no such date, common sense should be used. If the food product is moldy or emits an unpleasant odor, do not use it. The best thing to do in this case is to follow the advice "if the food is in doubt, throw it away."

We'll have to look at some terms. The very concept of "expiration date" means the date of the end use or consumption of the product. "Final" in this case means the period after which the use of the product after its expiration is fraught with a certain risk.

International Label Guide:

  • "It is advisable to use before" - this term refers strictly to the quality of the product, not to its safety. The indicated date recommends the use when the product is of the best taste and quality. The phrase does not mean that the product will be unusable after the specified date. It may get a little worse, but it will still remain edible. Sour cream, for example, is already a sour product, but it can taste brighter, fresher if the starter is fresh.
  • "Date of manufacture" is the date of manufacture of the product. Most often, the term is used to label beer. Beer can spoil after 3 months under the influence of the sun, as the light activates the reproduction of microorganisms. Therefore, you need to be especially careful when buying beer in transparent bottles, not to mention "live" beer, which has become very popular lately. Whereas beer bottled in brown or green glass is safer and lasts longer.
  • "Use before", "good before" or "use before" - such phrases indicate the last date recommended for the use of the product. It is determined by the manufacturer of the product.
  • “Packed” - “date of packing”. Such markings are usually found on canned and packaged goods. However, in some cases, finding the date is not easy, because it can be encoded. Sometimes manufacturers (especially foreign ones) write dates according to the Julian calendar, where January numbers look like 001-0031, and December numbers look like 334-365. Therefore, the date looks very strange.

Marking in the USA and Europe

Use by

This phrase indicates the date after which the product may not be safe to consume. It is advisable to comply with this restriction, especially for perishable products (fresh meat, dairy products), as violation can lead to food poisoning. It is important to follow the recommendation, even if the products smell good and look attractive. Children, the elderly and pregnant women are especially at risk. GoodHousekeeping.

Some companies do not use research data for their product to determine this date, but an already existing "calculator" of the shelf life of each product, taking into account its composition. Therefore, the dates indicated on such products may be very approximate and do not mean at all that after their occurrence the product became unsafe.

Best before

This marking is not at all the same as the previous one. This mark only indicates the period during which the product retains optimal taste. But, as a rule, exceeding this date does not mean that the product has become dangerous.

If it is canned, then such a product may be most tasty before the specified date, but no more - the risk of bacterial contamination is usually minimal after its expiration. By consuming such products, you can reduce the amount of food waste and save a lot of money.

A study of 1500 people found that most Americans rely more on their own senses (smell, taste, look) than they do on package dates.

Display By and Sell By

These dates are pointers for sellers, not directives for the consumer. This information tells stores how long a product should be on the shelf and can be quite confusing for the customer. Pay no attention to them.

Shelf life and shelf life of food

You should remember some basic rules for storing products.

Eggs. They are good for 3-5 weeks after purchase (assuming you purchased them before the stated expiration date).

Poultry and seafood. They should be cooked or frozen within 1-2 days.

Beef and pork. Must be cooked or frozen within 3-5 days.

Canned foods. Foods with a high acid content, such as tomato sauce, can be stored for 18 months or more. Reduced acid foods, such as canned beans, may be safe for up to 5 years.

Of course, these dates are given with the assumption that you will not store cans in warm places, damp basements or garage. Peggy VanLaanen, PhD, Nutritionist, and Professor at Texas A&M University at College Station, USA, advises storing canned and dry foods at 10-21 ° C (50-70 ° F) dry dark place. Humidity can speed up food spoilage.

The US Food and Drug Administration notes that the taste, smell, and appearance of a product can change rapidly if it is stored in an unventilated area. Obviously, swollen fermented cans should be thrown away, regardless of their expiration date.

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Information on safe food storage is needed

Since expiration dates are not always the last resort for safe product use and storage, you should be aware of the following:

  • You need to buy the product before the expiration date.
  • Perishable products after purchase must immediately be placed and stored in the refrigerator.
  • Perishable foods need to be frozen if you cannot use them before the indicated date.
  • If a perishable food is frozen, it doesn't matter if it's past its expiration date, because frozen food is safer for a longer time.
  • Follow the directions and recommendations on the packaging.

Food storage time

  • Bird - 1-2 days.
  • Beef, veal, pork and lamb - 3-5 days.
  • Minced meat - 1-2 days.
  • Offal (liver, tongue, brain, kidney, heart, tripe) - 1-2 days.
  • Smoked and half-smoked ham - 5-7 days.
  • Raw sausages (pork, beef, turkey meat) - 1-2 days.
  • Eggs - 3-5 weeks.

Shelf life of drugs

The safety, sterility and efficacy of drugs must be tested and established in advance by drug manufacturers. If the product has a shelf life of 18 months, this means that the above properties are guaranteed directly for 18 months, provided that all storage conditions are met.

Why do medicines sometimes have such a short shelf life?

Drug manufacturers are often accused of exaggerating and exaggerating shelf life in order to generate more sales. Some drugs may retain all properties after the specified period, but manufacturers do not conduct long-term studies, for example, for 10 years, to confirm this for sure. They are trying to establish the most optimal date from a commercial point of view for the chain "manufacturer - supplier - distributor - buyer". To ensure safety, most manufacturing companies usually try to sell drugs within a month, a maximum of three from the date of manufacture.

Chemicals in the composition of drugs are destroyed over time and change their properties, becoming potent (poisonous) or ineffective.

Where is better to store medicine

One of the worst places to store medicines is in the medicine cabinet, which is often hot and humid. Moisture can spoil medicines, which is why cotton is often added to the packaging. It is better not to store unused medicines for a long time.

Do not forget about your refrigerator

Most refrigerators operate at temperatures above 5°C (41°F). You should also be aware of the “temperature recovery” time. This is the re-cooling time after you open the door in search of a cold beer or the last piece of cake. The drawers and shelves of the refrigerator have different temperatures, as does the meat section. Let's say milk needs to be stored at 3°C ​​(37,4°F), fish at 0°C (32°F).

But do not go too far and be overly cautious. For example, some people only store apples for 5 days and then throw them away even though they are still fresh.

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