The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Expiration Dates...what do they really mean?

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Bohh's picture
Bohh

Expiration Dates...what do they really mean?

Hello,

As a new baker I have a question for you all. As we know, lots of ingredients have "Best if used by dates" on them. Everything from meat, to eggs, to peanut butter, to syrup. Anyway, I've been looking online to figure out how long these ingredients will really last. For example, a source I found said you can store butter for 1-3 months.

Question is, when does the 1-3 months start? Is it acceptable to use butter 1-3 months after the date stamped onto the package? Or is it 1-3 months from the day the factory packed it up and shipped it out? 1-3 months from the day I purchased it? Or is it from when I opened it? Or maybe the manufacturer is really smart and saving me the time and stamped the 1-3 month date already on the package in relation to the products creation date!?

This is a little confusing for me. Realistically I would take each ingredient and determine by taste, smell, and texture if it was acceptable to use. However, I would like to make sense of this information I found.

Thanks!

-Mike

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Mike,


Products may have "sell by ___," "use by __" or "best if used by ___" dates. How significant these are depends on what is likely to happen to the product with age. Some undergo spoilage, making them unpalatable or even dangerous to consume. (Milk sours. Meat putrefies. Oil turns rancid.) Other products lose flavor and/or texture. 


The shelf life of some products is very temperature-sensitive, so refrigerating or freezing changes their usable life span. Butter and whole grains can be frozen to prolong usability, for example.


So, use your senses (including common sense) in deciding how long to keep a product and when to replace it with fresh. 


David

Bohh's picture
Bohh

Thanks for the reply! I understand that. What prompted me to post though was the chart I found which was supposedly created by the FDA. I don't understand, when they are saying 1-3 months to store butter, when that time frame begins.


 


Thanks!

Islandlakebaker's picture
Islandlakebaker

Mike,


I just bought butter yesterday, this one salted and it expires 02/11/11, a little over 4 months from now.  If something is not marked, say you buy butter from a farmers market and the FDA says it is good for 1-3 months, that would be from the creation date... i.e. when the butter was churned.


I volunteer at a shelter.  Any food, even one day beyond the x-date, we throw away.  We have to by law and by good sense.  Don't want to poison anyone.


Martha Stewart throws out her unused spices if not used in a year... she is nuts and too rich!  LOL  I keep my olive oil in a cellar that is about 50 degrees all the time with no sun, it lasts well beyond the x-date.


As David stated use you senses, your nose, your eyes, and mostly your common!


Greg