Gray Matter


Expiration Date Gimmicks and Best By Dates You Can Safely Ignore

RT Cunningham | September 8, 2020 (UTC) | Food and Drink, Health

date gimmicksVarious food and drink industries picked up on the pharmaceutical industry expiration date gimmicks and ran with them differently. Instead of expiration dates, certain food and beverage industries started emphasizing “best by” dates. Who’s idea was that?

I say “date gimmicks” because the goal is get you to throw things out and buy replacements for them. The more you replace, the more money they make.

The Expiration Date Gimmick

The pharmaceutical industry puts expiration dates on all types of medicine. No specific type of medicine will cause adverse effects if you happen to take it a day or two after it expires. Medicine doesn’t just suddenly go bad.

Pharmacies and drug stores in the United States aren’t allowed to sell medicine near or past the expiration date. Certain other countries, and I can’t remember which ones, have no problems with it. I can’t recommend using some types of medicine beyond their expiration dates because there could be side effects I know nothing about.

It’s an effective form of brainwashing, if nothing else. I was shocked the first time I caught a relative throwing out Tylenol because it was a day or two past the expiration date. Non-narcotic drugs like acetaminophen (paracetamol outside the United States), ibuprofen and naproxen won’t hurt you if you take them years after they expire. Time only causes them to lose their potency.

The “Best By” Date Gimmick

I didn’t notice it until a couple of soda (carbonated beverage) companies started recommending people drink their products before the “best by” date. I was reminded of it when I noticed it on a squirt bottle of mustard. Certain beverages and food items aren’t any better on any specific date. It’s a gimmick some people mistake for an expiration date, which causes them to throw out perfectly good food.

There are certain food items that don’t expire in the normal sense of the word. I could probably spend a day listing them, breaking it down by those that should be refrigerated and those that don’t need to be.

I keep the peanut butter jar in the kitchen cabinet and the jelly or jam in the fridge. Neither will last long enough to expire in any way. I keep the ketchup and the mustard in the fridge. They will go bad eventually, faster if left out at room temperature. Again, they won’t last long enough to go bad.

Stocking Up

There are certain things that will last far longer than others. Canned food, like beans and chili, will last for years as long as corrosion doesn’t compromise the internal vacuum. Canned food includes food sealed in vacuum-tight jars, like pickle relish.

I, unfortunately, don’t have enough food stocks to survive more than a month should we have to suffer one kind of apocalypse or another. If I was in the United States, I wouldn’t have to worry about it. I’m sure I could find plenty of MREs stocked at any one of the dozens of military bases.

Image Attribution: Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay
Edited and updated. Originally published at one of my other websites in December 2016.

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