Take a look around your home for a few minutes today. Take mental notes on what you notice regarding food and other products. You may have some wine sitting on a rack or cleaning materials in cabinets. Oh boy what about the refrigerator? There’s probably a good amount of consumables stored in there, would you agree? Though most products both consumable and non-consumable have expiration dates, there is no consistent regulation and not every state requires them.
Let’s get started on general expiration date terms and what they mean:
“Sell by”-when products should be pulled from the shelf, but stores can stock products past this date because it is legal. There are times when stores lower the price of these goods.
“Best if used by”or “use by” -the product is at its best quality. If you pass this date it may lose quality but still could be safe.
“Expires on”or “EXP” – is the last date a product should be used—there are some exceptions.
As you can tell from these meanings, expiration is a very fluid concept. Additionally, there are coded dates for products that identify the date of manufacturing or packaging. These codes are typically 3-digit numbers and could signify that the producer wants to omit this information.
Here are the common products you need to pay attention to:
- Toothpaste is good for 12 – 18 months after the expiration date.
- The quality will be loss and the intended effects, taste, and consistency will not be consistent with a brand new tube.
- Toothpastes that are beyond their expiration date will not harm you.
- Many companies advise throwing away toothpaste after the date—usually when it would increase their sales.
- Most sunscreens can be used from 3-5 years after production.
- Usually have an expiration date or a coded date.
- The sunscreens’ potency can be reduced by heat and humidity.
- Be sure to store your sunscreens in a cool, dry place.
- Some baby foods and poultry need to have dates and are required by law and federal regulations.
- The labeling of some food varies from state to state based on their food laws.
- Generally, foods past their dates are still safe to be consumed, but only if they’ve been handled and stored in a proper way.
- Milk can stay fresh up to a week after its sell-by date.
- Eggs can last three to five weeks at home.
- Keep eggs on the fridge shelf, not in the door, in order to maintain proper temperature.
- Fresh meat and poultry should be used within a couple of days of buying.
- Foods that are not properly handled can go bad, even before any of the expiration dates.
- Expiration dates assure that drugs stay powerful and safe.
- Having these dates do not mean that the medication is safe afterward.
- In most cases, manufacturers don’t want to test drugs in order to see how long they will really last because longer expiration dates would decrease sales.
- Drugs begin to break down after the bottles are opened and when exposed to heat, humidity, light, and temperature fluctuations.
- Always store your drugs in a cool, dry, dark place.
Here are some products you should NOT use past their dates:
- Drugs that can break down relatively quickly are Insulin, nitroglycerin, EpiPens, and liquid antibiotics.
- You should throw away drugs that are discolored, develop a strong smell, or have turned powdery.
- Liquid medications need to be stored in the fridge and are less stable.
- Condoms are products that either have an expiration date or should not be used after that, or a manufacture date.
- They are good for up to 5 years.
- Condoms that are past their date are more likely to break.
- Keep them in a cool and dry place.
- Don’t use them if they are sticky or dry or if the wrapper is damaged.
Infant formulas and baby food
- Infant formulas and baby food should be purchased and used before their “use-by” dates.
- After this date the nutrient levels and quality are reduced.
The main takeaway here is simple, pay attention to what you are buying and know what you can and cannot use after the expiration date. Keep in mind that this is just a small list to get you started and to get you thinking about the importance of maintaining your personal health and freshness of your consumable and non-consumable products.