Food for thought on expiration dates - CBS46 News

Food for thought on expiration dates

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ATLANTA (CBS ATLANTA) -

Some people religiously check expiration dates on food, while others could care less.

There's so much food for thought while shopping in the supermarket, that it can be overwhelming. 

Oscar Garrison, who is the food safety director for the Georgia Department of Agriculture, said he knows the ins and outs of food expiration safety.

"Typically, we don't see foodborne illnesses that are caused because of expired or out-of-date food products," Garrison told CBS Atlanta News.

Garrison said consumers usually get sick by failing to handle and store food properly. For example: milk, which should always be stored below 41 degrees.

"Typically, this product, if stored properly, will be good for five to seven days past that expiration date," Garrison said.

However, if a container of milk is opened, it should be thrown out within five to seven days, regardless of the expiration date.

Another item that came into question was eggs.

"You may have a use by date of tomorrow on those eggs, but if they're properly stored in the coldest part of your refrigerator, those eggs can last for three to five weeks past that expiration date," Garrison said.

Garrison also talked about beef and chicken. He said consumers should definitely pay close attention to the expiration date and cook that type of meat above 165 degrees to kill any bacteria.

"When you buy a package of ground beef, you should cook that or freeze that within three days of purchasing that product as a general rule of thumb," Garrison said.

While it may come as a surprise, there are only four items in a grocery store that are required by law to have an expiration date: milk, eggs, baby food and pre-packaged sandwiches.

CBS Atlanta News told grocery shoppers, including Vonetta Williams, about the required expiration dates.

"I don't really do pre-packaged sandwiches so I guess I'm pretty safe with what I've been checking, right?" Williams asked.

Another shopper, Erin Hammond, said she was glad to know about the required expiration dates.

"It is good information to know, we definitely don't want to take any chances with a baby," Hammond said.

Another surprising tip was that consumers can go weeks or even months beyond the expiration date on cereal and canned goods, as long as the integrity of the product hasn't been compromised.

"Dented cans or damaged cans are the major concern within a canned food community, much more so than a best buy date," Garrison said.

Another shopper, Anna Leigh Gilmore, said she felt like expiration dates caused her to throw out food unnecessarily.

"I feel like I've wasted a lot of food," she said. "I feel like a lot of people have wasted a lot of food going just by the expiration date."  

A product's expiration date, use-by date and sell-by date all mean about the same thing.

The most important thing to remember is that as long as food is stored and handled properly, it should last longer and shouldn't make anyone sick.

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