“Best by”: facts and fiction
In a rural food pantry in Kentucky, a woman asked an intern why the food that was given to her was past its ‘expiration’ date. That same question is echoed across social media, in TikTok videos with the #foodbank, and in discussions about food assistance across the country.
The answer, which I did not know when asked in that rural pantry five years ago, is that most foods are good past the date printed on their packaging, whether it’s a “sell by”, “use by”, “best by” or “pack” date. There are, of course, exceptions, such as baby food, infant formula, and some medicines, all of which should never be used past the date on their label.
Among food manufacturers, there are no industry standards for these dates, and these labels rarely relate to spoilage, or denote that a product is not safe to eat.
In America, 108 billion pounds of food is wasted each year. While many contribute this waste to producers and manufacturers, 39% or 42 billion pounds is created by households.
Certainly, if a food has any of these unsafe signs (rust, dents, swelling, holes, torn packages, broken seals, discoloration, mold, foul odors, missing or unreadable labels, or visible decay), it should be thrown away, and it is better to be safe than sorry in those cases, however, fighting food insecurity starts with tackling our own food waste.
Find our printable resource on safe food consumption here.
Kaitlyn Jackson is FAKH’s Communications and Marketing Manager. Her 2017 internship at God’s Pantry in Somerset, KY. inspired this blog and led her to pursue a career at our Food Bank.