By dumping expired food and restocking, grocers and families keep the economic machinery of food manufacturers running. However, paying too much attention to expiration dates contributes to millions of pounds of wasted food in the U.S. each year.
A new report by Harvard Law School's Food Law and Policy Clinic reveals More than 90% of Americans throw out food prematurely, and 40% of the U.S. food supply is thrown out unused every year because of food dating.
It's important not to confuse a food's expiration date with its shelf life. A food may be good far beyond its expiration date.
Here are some tips about what expiration dates really mean:
· If you keep eggs refrigerated, they are still fresh three to 5 weeks after you buy them.
· Canned food stored in a pantry or cabinet is still fresh after a year.
· Apples will stay crisp for three weeks if refrigerated. If they're cooked and then frozen, apples will stay good for 8 months.
· Breakfast cereal can last without going stale for 6 to 12 months.
· Lunchmeat should be used three to 5 days after you buy it. If frozen, deli meat lasts for up to two months, and beef stew meat can be used after 9 months in the freezer.
When doing your holiday food shopping this year, remember that "use by" and "best by" dates typically indicate the time a product reaches peak freshness - not spoilage. The "sell by" date is intended to help manufacturers and retailers ensure good product turnover.