Confused by what date labels on food products mean? Us, too. So we looked into it.
True
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.

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

True

The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

Woman shares breakup letter to foot before amputation.

It's amazing how even the most harrowing of decisions can be transformed with a good sense of humor.

After suffering an ankle injury during a horseback riding accident at age 13, Jo Beckwith had exhausted all other options to escape from the lingering pain from the fracture, leaving her with no better choice than to amputate.

She could have buckled under the weight of such life-altering news (no one would blame her). Instead, Jo threw a farewell party the day before her surgery. Some of her friends showed up to write a goodbye letter, fun and lighthearted messages scribbled directly onto the ankle.

@footlessjo

The messages that came into #amputation with me! #funny #therapeutic #disability #amputee #fypシ


Keep Reading Show less
True

When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."