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Ad Council - Save The Food

Have you ever wondered what on Earth all of those "best before," "sell by," and "expiration" dates sprinkled on products actually mean?

Go into any grocery store, and you’ll be confronted with different dates on all kinds of food. Not only are there "best before" dates and "sell by" dates, there are also "harvest" dates and "shipping" dates, to name just a few.

If you’re simply trying to buy food that’s as fresh as possible, it’s hard to know what to pay attention to or what dates to trust.


Take "best before" labels, for example.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), food producers aren't required to put "expired by," "use by," or "best before" labels on their products, and if they do put an expiration date, FDA laws don't preclude the sale of food past it (with the exclusion of infant formula).

According to professional home economist Ellie Topp, most "best before" labels have nothing to do with food safety and everything to do with food taste. Food producers want to protect their brands, and ensuring their food is as delicious as possible is part of that. A package of noodles or a bag of tortilla chips eaten at a reasonable time after its "best before" date will most likely be perfectly safe to eat and taste the same. This is even true for eggs and dairy products.

We can't make the same promise for whatever is in that pot. Image via iStock.

Knowing that food labels aren't necessarily telling consumers what we think they are is one thing — actually using them to inform food-buying choices is another. Armed with my newfound label-reading skills, I hit up my favorite local grocery store for some necessities.

Here's what I learned, along with a few things you might want to keep in mind during your next trip to the grocery store:

1. Milk cartons usually display some iteration of a “sell by,” “best before,” or “freshest by” date, but the milk can last a lot longer than that if unopened.

Before Louis Pasteur invented pasteurization, fresh milk wouldn't last longer than a day or two before going off. Oh, how times have changed! Image via Heather Libby/Upworthy.

The date on this carton of lactose-free milk tells the shelf stockers at my local grocery store that it is good to sell until Dec. 8 if it is refrigerated properly. When it comes to living in my fridge, pasteurized milk can last quite a while longer if it's unopened (and then at least a week after it's opened). Pasteurized milk is one of the safest products out there. As a general rule — as long as it smells and tastes OK, it's fine to drink. And if it starts to sour, you can make these pancakes.

2. When it comes to eggs, "sell by" or "best before" doesn’t mean "throw me out."

This artfully photographed carton of eggs has its best days ahead of it. Image via Heather Libby/Upworthy.

Most cartons of eggs purchased from grocery stores are fresh and delicious even after the "sell by" date. The FDA says to eat eggs within three-five weeks of purchasing them. The sell-by date will likely pass during that time, but the eggs are still safe. Older eggs may not taste as fantastic as eggs fresh from the farm, but they're also not likely to make you sick either.

If for some reason you’re skeptical about the health of your eggs, there’s an amazeballs little test you can try — and you only need a glass of water to do it! Plop a questionable egg into the glass of water and watch what happens. A fresh egg will sink to the bottom; a not-so-fresh will float.

3. Canned goods are the one true post-apocalyptic food.

I received this can of "Spamalot"-branded Spam as a gift in 2008. I hope to give it to someone in my will. Image via Heather Libby/Upworthy.

In a famous zombie movie, the heroes sought out Twinkies as the perfect post-disaster food. Realistically, they should have been looking for canned goods. "Best before" dates on cans are to remind consumers of when the food inside them is still at its best. After that date, the food inside may lose some of its flavor but should still be safe to eat. As long as the cans aren't dented, swollen, or rusty, the USDA says they're "safe indefinitely as long as they are not exposed to freezing temperatures, or temperatures above 90 degrees."

Lack of clarity around food labels affects more than consumer food choices. It also has big implications for our landfills.

A 2013 study by the Natural Resources Defense Council found that confusing food date labels led to a lot of "perfectly good, edible food" being wasted in America. While most consumers were looking to date labels for information on food safety, the manufacturers were providing information about optimal food freshness instead. That difference is significant and can result in a lot of food being thrown out before it needs to be. According to their research, Americans throw out an average of $390 worth of food per person per year. For a family of four, that’s $1,560 per year — not to mention a lot of food going to waste unnecessarily in our landfills.

These stock-photo models look hopelessly confused. They shouldn't have to be. Image via iStock.

In an ideal world, choosing the safest, freshest food in the grocery store shouldn’t require a calendar or a cheat sheet.

Whether we realize it at the time or not, we’re putting a lot of thought into the food we bring into our homes and put on our plates. Coupled with education programs around food safety and waste, simple and standardized food labels could be a way of helping us make safer, fresher choices that keep still-good food out of landfills.

Until that happens, there’s always the sniff test.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

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Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

That first car is a rite of passage into adulthood. Specifically, the hard-earned lesson of expectations versus reality. Though some of us are blessed with Teslas at 17, most teenagers receive a car that’s been … let’s say previously loved. And that’s probably a good thing, considering nearly half of first-year drivers end up in wrecks. Might as well get the dings on the lemon, right?

Of course, wrecks aside, buying a used car might end up costing more in the long run after needing repairs, breaking down and just a general slew of unexpected surprises. But hey, at least we can all look back and laugh.

My first car, for example, was a hand-me-down Toyota of some sort from my mother. I don’t recall the specific model, but I definitely remember getting into a fender bender within the first week of having it. She had forgotten to get the brakes fixed … isn’t that a fun story?

Jimmy Fallon recently asked his “Tonight Show” audience on Twitter to share their own worst car experiences. Some of them make my brake fiasco look like cakewalk (or cakedrive, in this case). Either way, these responses might make us all feel a little less alone. Or at the very least, give us a chuckle.

Here are 22 responses with the most horsepower:

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One day I described the process of listening to the radio, waiting for my favorite song to come on so I could record it on my tape recorder, and how mad I would get when the deejay talked through the intro of the song until the lyrics started. My Spotify-spoiled kids didn't even understand half of the words I said.

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But soon, reality sets in and if they have more kids, they'll probably be raised with a lot less attention. As a result, first-born kids turn out a bit differently than their younger siblings.

"Rules are a bit more rigid, attention and validation is directed and somewhat excessive," Niro Feliciano, LCSW, a psychotherapist and anxiety specialist, told Parents. "As a result, firstborns tend to be leaders, high achievers, people-pleasing, rule-following and conscientious, several of the qualities that tend to predict success."

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