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Out-of-date food is the last thing you want to consume, but how do you know if something is spoiled? And what’s the difference between those “sell by,” “eat by,” “best by,” and “use by” date labels? The date stamped on the packaging doesn’t always give you a clear indicator of when the food will go bad. Produce, canned goods, and meats all ripen and spoil at their own rates, and different environmental factors can impact those rates as well. That means the date you think you need to follow isn’t always the most reliable guideline.
If you want to know how long the vegetables you bought last week are safe to eat or if the salmon smells because it’s bad or simply because it’s fish, then you need to know the general rules for shelf life. Otherwise, your food could go bad before the date on the packaging or still be perfectly safe to eat despite the date of expiry.
Don’t disregard foods just because of that “eat by” date. It turns out the expiration dates on food aren’t always as black and white as they seem. Instead of using a taste test to determine if the questionable food in your fridge is safe, use this helpful infographic as a guideline. It’ll save you and your family some time and money from wasting food.
And remember: The number one way to make sure your food doesn’t go bad prematurely is to keep it stored properly and avoid leaving it in undesirable environments. If something spoils easily, make sure you keep it refrigerated and never leave it sitting out on the counter. Research which produce is best kept in the fridge, in a dark cabinet, or out on the counter. That way you don’t end up accidentally spoiling the food before you can eat it. How you take care of your food is more important than those digits stamped across the package.