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Throw It Out or Eat It? The Truth About Expiration Dates

By Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD
So you’re standing in front of the refrigerator staring at a “sell by” date on food and you have the internal debate: Do I throw it in the trash or take my chances?

You’re not the only one. Upwards of 91 percent of consumers have thrown food out based on the dates on packaging. But the dating system isn’t as clear as it seems. Nobody wants food poisoning — no fun — but few people want to waste food, either.

Let’s get some clarity. Federal law does not require food dating in most cases, but 20 states do have laws about dates. In many cases, manufacturers add dates voluntarily.

In general, perishable foods such as meat, poultry, eggs and dairy get dates. But those dates aren’t always about spoilage. Some dates simply inform retailers when products are at their best for freshness, taste and texture.

The label types vary:

*>strong/strong< indicates how long a store should display a product on its shelves. But foods are still flavorful and safe to eat several days after this date if you store them properly.*>strong/strong< comes straight from manufacturers. The product will be freshest and have the best taste and texture if you eat it by this date. But this date does not refer to food safety.*>strong>/strong< also comes from manufacturers. It’s the last date for peak quality. After this date, taste, texture and quality may go downhill, even if food safety does not.*>srong/strong< is the only packaging date related to food safety. If this date has passed, throw the food out.>strong/strongem< This article originally appeared on HealthHub from Cleveland Clinic.>/em<

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