Meaning of the term expiration date on food packaging

Meaning of the term expiration date on food packaging

Some of the groceries in the refrigerator and kitchen cupboards are a little past their expiration date, but how come they still look good and don't smell bad? Is it processed or just thrown away?

On the packaging of food and beverages sold in the market, there is usually a term indicating the expiration date of the product. Some are written with “Better use before” or “Best before”, “Exp.”, “Sell by” and “Use by”. These various terms actually show different information and meanings, you know! Come on, see the explanation below!

Observing the Meaning of the Date on the Packaging

To find out when the food or drink you are going to consume expires, you will usually find the date printed on the packaging. Best before, use by, sell by, and exp. are some of the most commonly used terms. What's the difference?

1. Best before or should be used before

Best before signifies quality. This means that the food or drink is actually still safe for consumption after the date stated, but the taste and texture may have changed.

The quality of the product may also decrease, especially if it is not stored according to the instructions. The best before date is usually listed on canned food, frozen food, and dry food.

2. Expires by, expiration date or exp.

This means that you have to throw away the product if it is past the stated date. Because the date listed indicates the end of the period you can enjoy the product.

3. Sell by

The term sell by indicates that the product can still be consumed even after the date stated, but the quality (taste or freshness) has decreased.

This one term is actually a guide for sellers to sell products only until that date. After that, the goods will be withdrawn from circulation. So, the buyer must purchase the product before the expiration date.

4. Use by

Usually this date is listed on the packaging of perishable foods, such as ready-to-eat salads or meat. This term indicates the level of product safety. Food or drink can be consumed until the date stated. After that, throw it away even if it still looks good or doesn't smell good.

Food Storing Guide

In addition to checking the expiration date, you also need to follow the storage instructions listed on the packaging so that food and drinks remain of good quality. As a guide, let's take a look at the following food storage guidelines:
  • Once purchased, you should immediately store the product in the refrigerator if it is not processed immediately. If it will be stored for a long time, store it in the freezer.
  • Process food immediately after removing it from the refrigerator or freezer.
  • Avoid buying food whose packaging has been damaged.
  • Cereals are still relatively safe for consumption a few weeks after the expiration date. It's just that the fat in the cereal has oxidized so it doesn't taste as good as before.
  • Eggs are generally safe to store in the refrigerator for 3-5 weeks.
  • Milk that has gone through the ultra-pasteurization process can last up to several months. But do not drink if it has changed taste.
  • Yogurt can still be consumed after the expiration date because the microbes have been killed in the pasteurization process. It's just that the taste could be sharper. However, throw away the yogurt if it is a month past its expiration date.
In general, food will expire faster, especially if it is stored for too long at the wrong temperature. Bacteria that may be contained in it can cause poisoning if consumed.

Food or beverage products may still look and smell good even after their expiration date. So, don't forget to always check the expiration date on the packaging before you buy and process food or drinks.