10 surprising facts about food expiration dates you didn’t know


When it comes to food expiration dates, there is often confusion and misinformation surrounding what they actually mean. Here are 10 surprising facts about food expiration dates that you may not have known:

  1. Expiration dates are not federally regulated
  2. Did you know that the expiration dates you see on food packaging are not actually regulated by the federal government? In fact, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only requires expiration dates on infant formula. For other food products, the dates are typically set by the manufacturers themselves.

  3. “Sell by” and “Best by” dates are not the same as expiration dates
  4. Many people confuse “sell by” and “best by” dates with expiration dates. However, these dates are not actually indicators of safety. “Sell by” dates are for retailers to know when to remove products from shelves, while “best by” dates are just suggestions for when a product is at its peak quality.

  5. Expired food does not always mean unsafe food
  6. Just because a food product has passed its expiration date does not necessarily mean it is unsafe to eat. In most cases, expiration dates are more about the quality of the product rather than its safety. Use your judgment and common sense when deciding whether to consume expired food.

  7. Frozen food can last indefinitely
  8. Unlike perishable items, frozen food can last indefinitely if stored properly. While the quality may degrade over time, frozen food does not technically expire. So don’t be afraid to dig out that frozen pizza from the back of your freezer, even if it’s been there for a while.

  9. Expiration dates are not always accurate
  10. Studies have shown that expiration dates on food products are not always accurate. Food can often remain safe to eat well past the date listed on the packaging. It’s always best to use your senses (smell, sight, taste) to determine if a food is still good rather than relying solely on the expiration date.

  11. Canned food can last for years
  12. Canned food is known for its long shelf life. In fact, many canned foods can last for several years past their expiration dates, as long as the cans are not dented, rusted, or bulging. So next time you come across a can of beans in the back of your pantry, don’t be so quick to throw it out.

  13. “Use by” dates are more important than “sell by” dates
  14. When it comes to food safety, “use by” dates are more important than “sell by” dates. “Use by” dates indicate the last day a product is at its peak quality and should be consumed. It’s best to follow these dates to ensure you are consuming food at its freshest.

  15. Expiration dates are not required for all foods
  16. While many food products have expiration dates, not all foods are required to have them. This includes things like fruits, vegetables, and spices. Just because a food item does not have an expiration date does not mean it will last forever, so be sure to use your judgment when eating these items.

  17. Freezing can extend the shelf life of many foods
  18. Freezing is a great way to extend the shelf life of many foods. By freezing items like bread, meat, and produce, you can prevent them from spoiling and save money in the long run. Just be sure to properly store and label your frozen items to ensure they remain safe to eat.

  19. Food waste is a major problem
  20. One of the most surprising facts about food expiration dates is just how much food is wasted each year due to misconceptions about expiration dates. By understanding the true meaning of expiration dates and using your judgment to determine a food’s safety, you can help reduce food waste and save money in the process.


Food expiration dates can be confusing, but by understanding these surprising facts, you can make more informed decisions about when to consume food and when to toss it. Remember that expiration dates are not always accurate and that using your senses to determine a food’s safety is key. By being mindful of food waste and properly storing items, you can make the most of your groceries and save money in the long run.


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