MSNBC: "How to tell whether your food has really expired" : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread


How to tell whether your food has really expired

Brooke Sanders


With the holidays fast approaching, youll need to make room in your refrigerator for all of the leftovers. Now may be a good time to go through and see what has expired. NBC National Corespondent Brooke Sanders tells us how to know what the date on a product really means.

WHEN WE SHOP for our families, we want to make sure were getting the freshest, best tasting food possible. But sometimes, looking at the label can be confusing.

Sell by. Best by. Best if used by. What do these dates really tell us about the food were buying?

The sell-by date means you need to buy it by this time, said Donna Downen, a home economist. Its gonna give you at least a week, and in the case of yogurt, a little over a week if you keep it properly in your refrigerator.

What if a sell-by date is for January 3, 2000 and you open it well before the New Year, chances are its not going to last.

You need to use it within a week or so of the date that you open it, said .

What about buttermilk with a best-by date stamped on it? Thats different than a sell-by date, but what does it mean?

Its similar to use-by, Downen said. Its best by, used by that date. So the best and used by mean about the same thing. It should be treated about the same way.

Now heres one stamp you cant confuse.

Best if used by means exactly what it says, the economist said. Use it by August 19, 2000.

And remember we saw best. They used the word best. So best and used by are the same, she said. Best if used by is just a little more clear.

What about canned foods or other items that have no dating information? Canned goods usually have coded dates and consumers usually dont know what they mean.

What should you do then? Canned food should be held on your shelf for a year, because even canned foods can go bad.

Everything has a life span, and it can begin to deteriorate in the can, Downen explained.

And if youre stocking up for Y2K, check the expiration dates on your bottled water.

[If we buy it by] the 25th of October of this year, we need to use it by the 25th of October in the year 2001, she said. Most of the water quality experts recommend that you rotate your water, your bottled water every six months for taste and quality.

Always remember once these seals are broken, the dates are meaningless. You have about a week to use most products once youve started to use them.


-- John Whitley (, January 09, 2000


I hope that our readers won't be in a hurry to dump cans that are over a year old. I use cans that have been in storage for several years, and they still taste fine. True, they may have lost a few vitamins, but cans usually keep several years It is wise to date the labels or lids, and use the oldest first (remember FIFO....first in, first out.) Of course, any can with a bulge should be discarded. Don't give the contents to a pet, either!

-- Jo Ann (, January 09, 2000.

Have eaten canned food ( spinich ,beans and beets ) that were9-10 years old . No problem . the cans were startying to rust thru in two cases , but I'm still here ! Eagle

-- Hal Walker (, January 11, 2000.

This is really good to know.

-- Homesteader (with@a.stash), November 28, 2001.

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