Simanaitis Says

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“EVERY DAY IN EVERY WAY, I’m getter better and better,” or so said Émile Coué. Not that I would agree with everything Coué said. 

Émile Coué de la Châtaigneraie, 1857–1926, French psychologist and pharmacist, founder of optimistic autosuggestion as a means of overcoming disease. 

Nevertheless, there is certainly something to be learned about the “best-by,” “sell-by,” and “use-by” terms as they relate to commodities such as food, drugs, stock, or bonds. I avoid any suggestions on these latter two, but here in Parts 1 and 2 today and tomorrow I share interesting aspects about the first two.

Meds First. Medical authorities tell me that generally drugs are dated very conservatively. Ask your doctor specifically about any leftover meds. Some lose their potency with time; others do not. (The meds, not the doctors.)

The USDA View on Foods. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service says, “Two types of product dating may be shown on a product label. ‘Open Dating’ is a calendar date applied to a food product by the manufacturer or retailer.  The calendar date provides consumers with information on the estimated period of time for which the product will be of best quality and to help the store determine how long to display the product for sale. ‘Closed Dating’ is a code that consists of a series of letters and/or numbers applied by manufacturers to identify the date and time of production.”

FSIS notes, “Except for infant formula, product dating is not required by Federal regulations.”

The allrecipes View. I find the website a reliable source for matters culinary. On January 19, 2022, it offered Isadora Baum’s “This is What Those Best-By, Sell-By, and Use-By Dates Really Mean.”

Canned foods, Baum notes, “may actually be safe for years after as long as the can isn’t dented or compromised.” Dry goods such as pasta, rice, or crackers “also can last well after their dates, but may taste stale. A lot comes down to how food is stored.”

Baum cites food authorities noting that “best-by” or “use-by” dates are recommendations of quality, not safety. With regard to fresh foods, “While nutritional quality may decline if you extend the shelf life, these kinds of foods do remain safe to eat.” 

To Eat or Toss? Baum observes that “There’s no clear time frame for how long a particular food can last without spoiling.” There are general guidelines, however: Don’t go past the date for meat or poultry in the fridge; but freezing it can extend its quality for three months. 

Unopened pasta or grains are fine for two years. Once cooked, store in the fridge and eat within a few days.

“Canned foods,” Baum says, “should be stored in a pantry at room temperature, away from sunlight, and any unopened canned goods that have lots of acidity should be used within 18 months.” 

“So,” she cites, “canned meat and veggies can last for two to five years, but if you open a can of tomato sauce or sauerkraut, it can last five to seven days in the fridge.”

And, of course, “If your canned good is dented or swollen, throw it in the garbage.” 

Geez, I’d place the swollen one in the garbage ever so gently, just in case.

Tomorrow in Part 2, the Voice of America raises the crucial aspect of food waste. More details are shared from allrecipe’s Isadora Baum and from the FSIS. And I also offer two family favorite recipes. ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2022 

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