Sell-By Dates Lie To You, Here's The Truth

Josephine Thompson


"Best Before" dates are actually mostly a lie that the supermarkets came up to make you buy stuff more often. In Britain, the average shopper wastes about £60 a month on fruits, vegetables, bread and other perishables that they will throw away because of "Best Before" dates. It amounts to 1.3 billion tons of food dumped worldwide.

The fact is, food doesn't become poison as soon as "Best Before" date passes. Actually, it's the "Use By" date that you should be mindful of, especially in meat and dairy products. That's the only true date - "Sell by" and "Best Before" are merely advisory labels that help super markets rotate food – by throwing away bananas that are less than perfectly yellow, for example. So here's a guide to actually determining if your food is still good to eat.



Hard cheese doesn't really care about "Best Before" dates – or mold. Actually, it's perfectly safe to scrape the mold of hard cheeses and then eat the cheese since it's not porous and doesn't let the mold spores penetrate it.


Soft cheeses, however, should be consumed before the "Use By" date as they will go bad – fast.


Dried Foods

Drying stuff is a good way to store almost forever. And stuff like rice can stand for a long time – they might take longer to cook and taste a bit stale, but they're not bad for you.


Dried spices will last even longer. They might lose some of their flavor, but they won't gain any lethality!


Canned goods

Canned goods were literally made for long term storage. So if the can isn't damaged and you store it out of direct sunlight, then it can keep for a few years.




Supermarket bread usually has high levels of chemical preservatives, so they can last a long time. On the other hand, once mold starts setting in, you have to throw it away – mold penetrates the porous bread like nobody's business.



Frozen food

Much like drying or canning, freezing is one of the great ways to store food, just make sure the freezer is working properly. If the food was properly frozen in the first place, it will keep. However, you should never thaw and refreeze food – that's just asking for trouble.




Open water bottles, especially if they have been exposed to direct sunlight, will breed a lot of bacteria, so don't drink them.




Are your potatoes sprouting eyes? Then you should consume those uppity veggies first. Core out or cut away a wedge where the eye was. Keep cutting till you find normal potato color. Stuff that isn't green or dark is good to eat!


Some vegetables go soft or turn brown with age, but they will still work wonderfully in soup or other cooked dishes.


Bagged salads

Those can get brown and bitter fast, but fresh whole heads of lettuce will keep for days.


Also, mature tomatoes taste better, so always store them outside of the bridge.



Bananas darken as they ripen, so a few dark spots only indicate that it's getting sweeter. And even if it goes nearly black, you can still use them in cake or whatever.




If the egg doesn't stink when you crack it open, it's still good to use in recipes that heat them above a simmering temperature.




Milk will stay drinkable for days and its quality can be easily determined by a taste test. If you don't want to spit it out immediately, it's still good.




Vinegary stuff will keep for a long time, since the acid is super unpalatable to bacteria. Salty liquids as brine as well as fermented products like yogurt and sauerkraut are similar.



Fish and meat

If your raw meat and fish isn't fresh, it will smell. It's always better to throw them away if they smell suspicious.




Bacon can keep because of the added salt. If it looks and smells OK, it is OK!




Honey can keep technically forever. Sugar might crystallize, but that's that!



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