How to Decode Best By Dates

by Rachel Collins

It usually happens like this…you reach for that overpriced jar of nut butter in your fridge to find out it’s past the best by date…but it smells so good…do you keep it or throw it out?

Up to 37% of Americans throw food away if the date on the item has passed while 84% of Americans ignore the date and keep the food.

The truth is, best buy dates contribute to Americas massive food waste problem. According to Jackie Suggitt, a director at a nonprofit that works towards reducing food waste, called ReFED, said: “These labels are set by manufacturers, and often set rather arbitrarily.” These dates are used to point out when a product stops tasting its best rather than when it is unsafe to eat.

There are simple steps that you can take to check if your food is still fresh after the best by date has passed:
1. The first tip is to trust your judgment. Over the years you will learn how certain items should smell and look.
2. Check your food for mold or any funky odors – if it does not look or smell right DO NOT EAT IT!
3. Highly perishable items like poultry, meat, fish, shellfish, eggs, dairy, and cheese require closer attention. “To prevent disease-causing bacteria from multiplying, don’t let perishable items remain in the danger zone, which is between 41°F to 135°F, for more than 2 hours,” says nutritionist Cannon, J.D, R.D.

There are also simple steps that can take to make sure your food stays safe:
1. Check the temperature of your fridge. For safe food be sure the temperature is at 40° F or below.
2. Avoid overpacking. This allows the cold air to circulate the refrigerated floods to keep them properly chilled.
3. Keep all food covered. Sealed containers or storage bags allow fewer days for spoilage.
4. Keep track of your food – freeze items before you need to throw them away. This allows food to last longer!