The Fridge Fight Over Expiration Dates


Do you and your spouse fight over when to toss a gallon of milk?

If you do, you're not alone.

Tara Fuentes says she and her husband really only disagree on two things: Oklahoma State vs. Texas and food in the refrigerator.

She said she is inclined to toss food once the date creeps closer and closer to the expiration or "sell by" date.

"I'd say he's a little more daring than I am," Fuentes said.

Take the buttermilk in their refrigerator that expired three days earlier.

"If we used it pretty soon, it would probably be OK," Bryan Fuentes said. "I'd have to open it, smell it, maybe taste it."

But the date was enough for his wife to want to trash it.

"I don't want to smell it, I don't want to taste it, I just want to throw it away," Tara Fuentes said.

Who's right? Food experts say milk is good for a week after the sell-by date, so the buttermilk can still go on the menu.

The family's carton of eggs says "sell by March 3."

"Realistically, I'll throw them away," Tara Fuentes said.

But her husband said he would likely still eat them. And he comes out ahead on this one, too: Food experts say eggs are good for three to five weeks after you buy them.

Yogurt manufacturers only guarantee the safety and quality of their products up to the sell-by date. So the yogurt with a date of March 3 that Bryan Fuentes opened up to eat should be tossed.

"There's live cultures in it, and they're probably dead by the time that date comes around," his wife said.

Adding to the confusion, there is no food-dating system that is used everywhere in the country. More than 20 states require some dating of food. The federal government does not require dating on food other than infant formula and some baby food.

Product dates aren't actually a guide to how safe a food is, according to the USDA. Even use-by dates aren't usually safety dates; they are just the last date for a product's best quality.

But the USDA still recommends you eat a food by its use-by date. Fresh or uncooked foods should be cooked or frozen depending on when you buy them. Processed foods should also be cooked or frozen depending on when you buy them -- and depending on when you open them.

Get More:
The USDA's Food Product Dating page has charts of how long to keep food after purchase.

NBC DFW's Meredith Land contributed to this report.

Contact Us