Although every food item has a sell-by or best before date stamped onto the packaging, most consumers seldom pay attention to these when shopping. A lot of people just expect retailers to do the right thing and not stock or sell items that are expired. But it is a good idea to check these dates before buying and check packaging of food stored in your refrigerator at home before consuming.
Food labels have date marks to tell us about safe shelf life and help us tell how long food can be kept before it begins to deteriorate.All food with a shelf life of less than 2 years must be date marked.
Foods also have a “use-by” date, and this is the date foods must be eaten by or thrown away by the date. After this date, foods are unsafe for consumption. These foods may not show any signs of contamination and may smell normal but they should not be eaten because bacteria may have built up and can cause sickness if consumed.
For those in the food industry, these date stamps are particularly important because it is illegal to sell foods after a ‘use-by’ date and you may be prosecuted for doing so. Foods such as milk, sliced ham and cold meats are especially vulnerable to contamination, so the best before dates should always be checked.