The issues surrounding expiration dates, why they aren't important

Imagine this: You’re going into the grocery store to get a few things. Milk, eggs and cheese. When you get to each item, you check the expiration date. But why?


In our society, everything has either an expiration date or a best buy date. We as a society think that things with a closer best buy date are bad, when the reality is they probably aren’t. 


Besides checking dates out at the store when purchasing certain items, we also see people tossing things out once they reach their expiration date. 


I remember as a kid, I would refuse to drink milk that was a day past its expiration date because I thought it was going to taste horrible, even though my parents would try it before me. 


The fact is that most things such as milk, cheese, fruit and canned foods are good past their expiration dates. 


While the number of days and or weeks differs between products, a simple taste test can help you determine if it is okay before you toss it. 


Expiration dates and sell-by dates are two ways that companies are able to make more money off of consumers. 


Since things, such as milk, are typically sold in large quantities, some people aren’t able to finish them before the expiration date. These people, like my younger self, will toss the product out and go buy a new one, even if the tossed one was still perfectly fine for consumption. 


While I just said that this is economically good for companies, it is not necessarily good for the store selling it, but rather the company that is producing it. 


One reason why it is not beneficial for the store selling it is the fact that most stores have to throw out products that are past its expiration or sell-by date. 


When customers come in and search for the product with the furthest date, the ones with closer dates end up being tossed. Therefore, the store that is selling products with expiration and sell-by dates is required to purchase more product from the company that produces it. 


Not only does this cause the grocery stores to lose money, it also creates more food waste in our society. 


Since stores have to throw out products that have passed their sell-by date, it just ends up in a dumpster out back. 


According to the USDA, about 30 to 40 percent of food made in the United States ends up as food waste. 


This is a large number and shocked me the first time that I heard it. 


One way that this number can be decreased is less food waste at the grocery store. If food shoppers in the United States went ahead and bought the milk that was going to expire in a few days, that might save it from being tossed out the next day. 


Another way to help reduce this food waste was mentioned earlier. 


If consumers taste check their products before tossing them, then they can reduce the amount of food that they throw away at home. 


So next time you are at the grocery and looking through expiration dates, go ahead and buy something with a closer date because chances are, it’s still going to be good. 


The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily of The Torch. 

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