Expiration, Sell-By, Use-Before, and Use-By Dates on Foods: What Do They Mean?
Often people open up their refrigerators, cupboards, and cabinets only to find foods with questionable integrity. Some people trust their noses. Others look for visible signs of mold or deterioration. Figuring out the difference between the “expiration,” “sell by,” “use before,” and “use by” dates may leave some people scratching their heads.
While it is always better that you are safe rather than sorry, the following guidelines and information should help to take the guesswork out of determining whether or not your food is good to eat.
The expiration date is the last day the food is safe to eat. If you have not consumed it by this date, throw it away. After the expiration date, it may cause someone to become sick if consumed.
Sell by date
This is the date that is printed for the supermarket. If the item has not sold by this date, the store should remove it from the shelf. It still may remain safe for consumption, if eaten after the marked date. Depending on the food, you still can store these items in your home for days to weeks after the sell by date.
Best if used before or by
The best if used before or by date means the food has a guarantee of peak freshness by this date, if it is properly stored. After that date, it will still remain safe to consume for a while, although it will have a lesser quality of taste, flavor, or nutrition.
For an exhaustive list of how to manage foods, visit the following Web sites:
- Cold storage chart: (http://www.pueblo.gsa.gov/cic_text/food/cooking4groups/8.htm)
- Foods purchased refrigerated: (http://www.pueblo.gsa.gov/cic_text/food/cooking4groups/9.htm)
Making sure canned foods are safe is not as easy to determine as more highly perishable foods.
Follow this advice:
- Many times the expiration date has to do with the actual can and not the food inside of it; many foods will outlast the can, but if the can starts to lose its integrity before the food, the expiration date will reflect this
- If the can is dented at a double seam on the top or bottom of the can, throw it away immediately
- If the can has rust on it, throw it away
- If the can has a severe dent on the side that pulls the top or bottom of the can, throw it out
- If the can is swollen, do not consume its contents
The only foods that are mandated by the US Dept of Agriculture to include dating requirements are infant formula and baby food. Many foods do not have any date or indication of freshness to determine whether they are safe to consume. Some foods use a different system called Julian dates, whereby the month is indicated by a number or a letter and the year is represented with only one number, representing the last number of the year it was produced (for example, 2009 is marked as a 9).
While following these guidelines can alleviate some of the confusion about whether a food is safe or not, the best advice probably is “when in doubt, throw it out!”
Office of Citizen Services and Communications, US Government Services Administration. Deciphering good expiration dates. Available at:http://blog.usa.gov/roller/govgab/entry/deciphering_food_expiration_dates. Accessed November 17, 2009.
Wood D. Nothing simple about food dating, expiration dates or ‘use by’ dates: most product dates relate to quality rather than safety. Available at: http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news04/2009/08/expiration_dates.html. Accessed November 17, 2009.
Info provided by RD411
Associates in Nutrition is back on the Blog scene! Follow us and blog with us as we up date you on news and information to better your nutrition, fitness, wellness and sports.
Soon I will have a NEW wellness portal, where you can keep track of your own daily nutrition and exercise. Keeping track of what you eat and when you exercise really helps if you have a goal, like more energy, weight loss, muscle gain, or whatever.
I will look for you there!
Your kitchen is the center of your nutritional hub. It’s where you make your decisions on how (and how often) to fuel your own body, and the bodies of others you may be responsible for feeding. For some of you, it’s also the place where meals are served and consumed: at a bar or island, for example, or a casual kitchen table.
You’ve already taken control of what goes in your refrigerator; now summer’s your chance to take control of the mood your kitchen sets. Believe it or not, the color of your kitchen walls can have an impact on your diet. Perhaps it’s time to evaluate how you want your kitchen to make you feel, and seize the day.
First of all, there’s a reason that McDonald’s, Burger King and every fast food restaurant known to man incorporates red and yellow in their logos and décor. Want to guess why?
Let’s start with yellow. This cheery hue is good for optimism and hope. But it also stimulates the appetite, pure and simple. You just thought you wanted a salad … now you want a Big Mac with fries.
Yellow is happy, but to overweight people, it can also be a tad dangerous when applied to kitchen walls. Better to let a good workout stimulate the appetite than the mere presence of a color. Unless, of course, you are underweight.
Need to beef up? Head for the yellow section of the paint store and slather it on. Think butter, egg yolks, lemons … mmm, I’m getting hungry already. But yellow helps the memory, so it could be useful if mom’s not available for a recipe consult.
Orange stimulates learning. If you’re a new cook, or aspiring chef or nutritionist, opt for orange.
As for red, it is a complex color, perhaps the most of all. Red engages us and brings out our emotions. Here’s the amazing thing about this color: to calm people, it is exciting, in a good way, a little thrilling. But for folks who are more anxious in nature, red is disturbing. The last thing you want is to be disturbed eight to 12 times a day, so be honest with yourself about your nature, and that of others with whom you may live.
Red walls trigger the release of adrenaline (which can be good for cooking, I suppose). And like yellow, it also stimulates the appetite, while simultaneously stimulating the sense of smell. Red walls can also increase your blood pressure and breathing rate.
Blue is opposite of yellow, on the color wheel, and in terms of appetite. It decreases blood pressure, the breathing rate, and the desire to eat, as do indigo and violet. So if you’re determined to drop 20, 30, even 40 pounds … coat your walls in hues of blueberries, grapes or plums. This will also remind you to eat antioxidants, which is a good thing. You win on two counts!
Pink is also proven as a winning weight-control color, at none other than prestigious Johns Hopkins Medical University in Baltimore.
Violet is known for its ability to create balance. So as you’re planning your menus or dishing out portions of lean protein, fresh veggies and multigrain bread, look to your walls for inspiration. (Violet is also good for migraine sufferers).
This brings us to green, the color of all things fresh and good for our bodies. Green is relaxing, and also creates a sense of balance. It relaxes the body, and helps those who suffer from nervousness, anxiety or depression. Green may also aid in raising blood histamine levels, reducing sensitivity to food allergies. Antigens may also be stimulated by green, for overall better immune system healing.
Placing your sunlit fresh herbs near a green wall brings the outdoors in. That might also make you think about starting a garden, going for a walk or run, or cycling around the neighborhood.
Brown enhances a feeling of security, reduces fatigue and is relaxing. Black is a power color. If you have six-packs and you know it, raise your hand. Gray is the most neutral of all colors for the kitchen: not much happening there. Brighter hues inspire creativity and energy, while darker colors are peaceful and lower stress. Beige and off-white are “learning” colors.
Make good choices, on your walls, as well as your plate. What color should your kitchen be?
Notes for my interview on Trey Radel’s Daybreak Show on Fox 92.5 this morning
Q: What are some ways to get kids actually eating healthier?
Take kids to a local fish market, talking about fish being heart-healthy for mom and dad, teach them what is caught locally; have them pick out fresh local fish for the family to eat
Teach kids about grilling and get them to choose veggies to grill; make shish-kabobs together.
Teach kids to cook a few healthy things, over the course of the summer.
Make one night a week “Kids Cook” night.
Talk about the best choices on restaurant and fast-food menus
Expose kids to the 12 power foods, and asking them to find tasty-sounding recipes that include them: almonds, apples, blueberries, brazil nuts, broccoli, green tea, olive oil, red beans, salmon, spinach, sweet potatoes, wholegrain wheat, yogurt.
Last week I wrote about omega-3 fatty acids, and how they play a critical role in brain function, growth and development, and may reduce the risk of heart disease. They’re found in seafood and shellfish, and no doubt, some of my better-informed readers are weighing the risk of contaminants like mercury against the benefits of omega 3s.
You’ve possibly read about the dangers of mercury, which can occur in some types of fish. So let’s go over the facts. The most important one is this: the FDA says women who are pregnant, want to become so, or are nursing should avoid the fish most likely to have mercury contamination. This rule applies to young children, too.
Mercury levels are generally higher in older, larger, more predatory fish and marine mammals. That’s why I recommend (for people outside the aforementioned groups) consuming no more than one fishmeal per week from predatory fish like shark, tuna and swordfish. The FDA agrees, recommending no more than 7 ounces of fish from the high-mercury-potential list per week.
Do add other seafood meals to your menu, but I recommend no more than two per week from non-predatory fish (sardines, salmon, shrimp, etc.). Oily seafood such as fatty sardines, trout, herring and salmon are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. They are thought to reduce the risk of death from stroke, heart attack, and other cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association also recommends four to six ounces, twice a week, of these types of fish.
Eating a variety of fish also cuts down on any negative effects caused by environmental pollutants. To decrease potential exposure from these types of contaminants, simply remove the skin and surface fat from a fish before cooking. If you know where your fish comes from, specifically, you can also check with local and state authorities in regard to potential contamination of local watersheds.
Here’s the good news: postmenopausal women and men middle-aged or older can relax about mercury consumption. For them, the benefits of eating fish far outweigh any potential risk. The main negative effect from mercury in fish is high blood pressure.
So, as with so many other things in life, moderation is the way to go. Unless you’re in the category of pregnant/nursing/trying or that of young children, a little fish can go a long way toward your heart health and brain function. And it tastes great! Coastal residents are particularly lucky to have easy access to the freshest of fish from local fish markets, retailers and restaurants. Find one or two sources you can rely upon, and support them.
Be aware of watershed issues if eating locally caught fish, and otherwise, simply enjoy this heart-healthy choice. Seafood is lean and low in saturated fats. It’s a great entrée in the evening, too, when that too-full feeling is particularly troubling. A good piece of fish is hard-pressed to make a diner feel he or she has over-indulged, unless it’s stuffed with something and doused in a rich sauce. Fish is also great on top of a salad, whether grilled or blackened.
As summer temps heat up, the added bonus of fish is that it can be cooked outside on the grill. Save on your air conditioning while doing something good for the bodies you feed. It’s a win-win.
Elaine Hastings is a registered dietitian and owner of Associates in Nutrition. Hastings can be contacted at info@ElaineHastings.com or by visiting AssociatesinNutrition.com. Visit her blog for the latest information on nutrition and great tips for staying healthy: AssociatesinNutrition.com/wordpress.
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©2009 Associates in Nutrition. All Rights Reserved.
Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans. In February, the American Heart Association recognizes American Heart Month as it focuses on raising awareness about the prevention of cardiovascular disease, including good nutrition. Adopting healthy eating habits is one way to reduce your risk of developing heart disease and stroke.
As you make daily food choices, base your eating pattern on these recommendations from the American Heart Association:
- Choose lean meats and poultry without skin and prepare them without added saturated and trans fat.
- Select fat-free, one percent fat or low-fat dairy products.
- Cut back on foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils to reduce trans fat in your diet.
- Cut back on foods high in dietary cholesterol. Aim to eat less than 300 mg of cholesterol each day.
- Cut back on beverages and foods with added sugars.
- Choose and prepare foods with little or no salt. Aim to eat less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. Anyone with hypertension, all middle-aged and older adults should consume no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day.
- If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation. That means no more than one drink per day if you’re a woman and two drinks per day if you’re a man.
- Keep an eye on your portion sizes.
As part of a healthy diet, an adult consuming 2,000 calories daily should aim for:
- Fruits and vegetables: At least 41/2 cups a day
- Fish (preferably oily fish): At least two 31/2-ounce servings a week
- Fiber-rich whole grains: At least three 1-ounce-equivalent servings a day
- Sodium: Less than 1,500 mg a day
- Sugar-sweetened beverages: No more than 450 calories (36 ounces) a week
Other nutrition measures:
- Nuts, legumes and seeds: At least four servings a week
- Processed meats: No more than two servings a week
- Saturated fat: Less than 7 percent of total energy intake
Be sure to eat a wide variety of nutritious foods daily. As always, small changes in lifestyle can make a big difference in improving your overall health.
The health risks associated with smoking are well researched and documented. In fact, studies have linked smoking with some of the most serious health issues such as cancer, emphysema and heart disease. However, what many people don’t realize is that smoking leads to nutritional deficiencies that may contribute to these and other illnesses.
Smokers should be aware of the impact that cigarette smoking has on their body’s ability to digest and use food, use nutrients and support the body’s immune system. Smoking prevents absorption of vitamins and minerals, interfering with the body’s ability to use vital nutrients properly.
In addition, smoking has a significant effect on vitamins. For example, smoking interferes with your body’s ability to use nutrients and depletes the body of vitamin C, an antioxidant that protects the body from disease. The more people smoke, the more vitamin C they lose from tissue and blood. The damage done by smoking may not be reversed by just increasing vitamin C intake through diet alone, so a supplement may be needed.
In addition, research shows that vitamin E is more rapidly depleted in tissue concentration in smokers than in non-smokers. As a result, tissue, including lung tissue, is more vulnerable to toxins. Vitamin E is also believed to inhibit fatty deposits on the inner walls of the arteries. Loss of those fatty deposits due to smoking can also cause hardening of the arteries and impaired blood flow from the heart. All of these factors contribute to an increased risk of disease.
While supplements or antioxidants may not protect the body against the damage caused by smoking, they can help increase the nutrients that the body needs. In addition, smokers should increase their intake of antioxidants by eating more fruits and vegetables. In fact, smokers need to eat more healthy foods than non-smokers just to get the same nutrients. To help the body properly use these nutrients, smokers can drink green tea, eat fruit and vegetables, and take vitamin C and E supplements.
Many smokers do not want to quit due to the risk of gaining weight. However, the risks of smoking greatly “outweigh” the risk of weight gain. While you may be tempted to diet while smoking or trying to quit, you should increase your intake of healthy, vitamin-fortified foods, drink plenty of water and increase your physical activity. When dietary changes combined with regular exercise become part of your daily routine, weight can be more effectively managed. However it’s recommended that you begin your dietary and nutritional changes before you actually quit smoking. That way, you will already be on your way to feeling healthy and have your diet plan integrated into your lifestyle before you quit.
For those who quit smoking, exercise and healthy eating may actually become more manageable. When you stop the smoking habit, you can usually breathe easier and move more quickly.
- Elaine Hastings is a registered dietitian and owner of Associates in Nutrition in Florida. Contact her at AssociatesinNutrition.com or Elaine@eatrightRD.com.
Article makes American Dietetic Association newswire…Nutrition: RD credentials signify specialized training
My latest News-Press article made the ADA’s news service! Be sure to read the article below on the significance of RD credentials. You can also link to the ADA’s Web site at www.eatright.org. They have the very latest news on food and nutrition. With so much information on the Web, it’s important to find credible sources. The ADA is a valuable resource for both health care professionals and consumers.
There is so much emphasis on the importance of food and nutrition that it is understandable why consumers may be confused. Who are you getting your nutrition advice from? Your gym? Magazines? A weight-loss program? The Web?
All of these sources can offer valuable information; however, you need to know that some of the advice you will receive from them is not necessarily accurate. New diet recommendations constantly emerge, making it sometimes difficult to distinguish fact from fiction. You should be especially careful if anyone offers you quick fixes that seem too good to be true.
If you are confused about the science of nutrition and weight loss, or have been receiving conflicting advice and not seeing the results you want, consider making an appointment with a registered dietitian, a specialist in the study of nutrition, who can assist you with planning a diet to promote a healthy lifestyle.
Certified by the state, RDs undertake the practical application of nutrition to prevent nutrition-related problems.
They are also involved in the diagnoses and dietary treatment of disease.
Dietitians in many settings work with people who have special dietary needs, inform the general public about nutrition, give unbiased advice, evaluate and improve treatments and educate clients, doctors, nurses, health professionals and community groups.
Sometimes, RDs will refer to themselves as “nutritionists,” because it is a term the public is familiar with. However, not all “nutritionists” are necessarily RDs.
Make sure the person you choose to see has RD credentials to ensure that person has received the necessary specialized accredited training.
That training includes classes in food and nutrition sciences, food service systems management, business, economics, computer science, culinary arts, sociology, chemistry, communications, education, biochemistry, anatomy and physiology, microbiology, pharmacology and psychology.
To make the transition from dietitian to RD requires the completion of an internship and the successful passing of a national board exam.
Why should you consider a dietitian instead of relying on the trainers at your local gym or your monthly fitness magazine? Dietitians have special skills in translating scientific and medical decisions related to food and health to inform the general public. They also play an important role in health promotion.
A dietitian will work with your doctor to assist you in fine-tuning your medications, meals and exercise requirements. Dietitians also will be able to assist you with reading food labels, and provide cooking and grocery tips.
Elaine Hastings is a registered dietitian of Associates in Nutrition and Sports Specialty in Florida. She has been practicing for 18 years and was recently named president of the Southwest Florida Dietetic Association. A “nutrition entrepreneur,” she works contractually and is also a writer, motivational speaker, product researcher, counselor, sports-nutritionist and eating disorder advocate. Continue to read her series on Tuesdays. You can contact Elaine at www.AssociatesinNutrition.com, Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org