Consumer Issues

September 26, 2008

Expired or Not?

Filed under: consumers — Tomi @ 1:50 pm
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Expired or Not?


With the recent increases in gas prices, and the mortgage slum, a lot of consumers are implementing different methods to cut gas expenses by limiting driving time as well as experimenting with others ways of cutting their living expenses.  For example, more and more family shoppers are going into the store with a list for items needed in the homes in a bid to cram all shopping need into one visit. Instead of daily or weekly shopping trips, many are choosing to stock up for a few days, for some it’s weeks and for some it’s months as a means to save on gas costs.  Also many are going in to discount warehouses for the first time, some clipping coupons to get more items per trip while cutting reducing the costs.


The efforts of the consumer are however frustrated by the manufacturers who it seems is unsympathetic with their offerings of confusing listings of expiring days on items available for purchase. Going from one aisle to the other in a regular grocery store, you’ll be amazed at the differences on the listed expiring dates on the items.  There is – use by, best by, best before, sell by, buy by, use or freeze by, enjoy by and then there is the one that has different days for different localities like the sell in NY by and in NJ by which you see mostly on milk.


A basic analysis of the different prints:


Use by: this is the most plain and easily understandable of all it tells you exactly when to use the item and after the listed date, you discard the unused portions.


Best before: I’ve often wondered if this means the item is still good after the date stipulated or if and if it’s only at it’s best before then.  I often thrown it out by the date but then sometimes I wonder if I could be saving more if I use it after the dates since I’d actually finished a box of cookies once afterwards noticing that the expiring date was 2 months prior to my consumption date. I’ve also bought bread once that got moldy two days before the listed date.


Sell by: This you find more on meat. Obviously the listed date is for the retailer but if I as the consumer buys the item on the exact same date listed and then change my mind for my recipe and I don’t use it that day but plan on using it the day after, would it still be ok?


Use or freeze by: this is as confusing as it can be. If I don’t use by but buy it and decide to freeze it would it still be okay to use if in 6 months or let’s say it gets tossed into the bottom of the freezer and I don’t get to see it until the next year. Would it still be okay to use it?


Finally, the use in NY by and in NJ where usually, the date in NY is an earlier date than the NJ date This begs the question why is there an earlier date. Obviously, certain laws limit the shelf life of these items in NY but the same law doesn’t apply in NJ.  It does makes one wonder if the people of NJ are being used as guinea pigs for an experiment. Why don’t we just have the same date for everyone???


True these manufacturers have laws governing their conduct but where exactly does that leave the common man.  The retailers offer on sale some items a few days before the printed expiring date and some don’t even notice that some items on their shelves are past the said expiring date.  As a rule I try to go for the item that is farthest from the expiring date but using online grocery delivery service, I get items within a day of it’s expiring date and the time I’m trying to save by not going into the store in the first place is wasted because I would have to go into the store to exchange it eventually.   Wouldn’t it be fair if the FDA mandated the use of same statement of expiring by all manufacturers? It would certainly help a lot of shoppers coordinate their shopping if only they understood when exactly the useful life of the item expires. Thus there would be no confusion and shoppers would really be able to save time and who knows it might be a major step in saving the environment from that dangerous Carbon Monoxide exhaust culprint that’s contributing to  GLOBAL WARMING.

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