Why Is Expiration Date Important?

Food/Medicine Expiration Date Facts

Hey there, savvy shoppers and curious consumers! Have you ever found yourself staring at an item in your pantry or fridge, wondering if that expiration date is more of a suggestion than a hard rule? We’re unpacking a question that impacts not just our meals but our health and safety: “Why Is the Expiration Date Important?” Whether you’re a food safety enthusiast or just someone trying to make sense of your groceries, you’re in the right place.

If you have got a bad stomachache, then where do you head to? Most probably to medicine. Before using it, the next thing to check is whether the expiration date is out of date or not. It raises the question and tickles the brain, “Why is there an expiration date?”

First, we need to know why and how things expire. Most of all, why is there a need for any product to expire? We will mostly talk about products like food, water, and medicines that have a biological impact. You can say the expiration period is like the shelf-life of food products. Why do things expire? A product’s real expiration date is complex to predict because it can be affected by everything from the factory’s sanitation to the fridge’s temperature.

Let’s go on a journey to understand the significance of those little dates stamped on our food and why paying attention to them is more important than you might think. Ready to become an expiration date expert? Let’s get started!

Why Is The Expiration Date Important?

The expiration date on products, such as food items, medications, and cosmetics, is important for several reasons:

Product Safety: The expiration date indicates the period during which a product is expected to remain safe for consumption or use. After the expiration date, the product may become less safe due to the potential growth of bacteria, degradation of active ingredients, or loss of effectiveness.

Quality and Effectiveness: Products can degrade over time, leading to changes in taste, texture, appearance, or potency. Consuming expired food products, for example, may result in a loss of nutritional value, rancidity, or the risk of foodborne illnesses. Expired medications might lose their effectiveness or even become potentially harmful.

Regulatory Compliance: Regulatory authorities, such as health agencies, mandate using expiration dates to ensure consumer protection and product quality. Manufacturers must establish and label expiration dates based on appropriate testing and scientific evidence.

Consumer Confidence: Expiration dates are crucial in establishing consumer trust and product confidence. Following expiration dates and using products within their recommended timeframe, consumers can feel assured about their safety and quality.

Liability and Legal Considerations: Sellers and manufacturers must provide accurate expiration dates. Failing to do so may lead to legal and liability issues if consumers experience harm or adverse effects due to expired products.

The expiration of many products is predetermined, which means we know the exact time, but it’s not true for all cases. For example, bring home fresh broccoli and leave it in the open. What you will find is stale food dominated by microbes. You will not eat this food because it’s stale and not fresh. So, in a sense, it has expired. That is why we must understand the reason for expiration, like medicines and packaged drinking water.

They have real expiry dates printed on them, and there is a reason for that. Most food products have a peak quality and the most nutritional value before expiration. It is said to consume the food before it expires. Most chemical reactions occur at room temperature but can also be boosted by various conditions, like catalysts and temperature. So, the same is the case with food products.

  • Sell-by-date: This date tells a storehouse the length to display that product. According to the USDA, this is in no way the expiration date.
  • Use-by-date: The date the manufacturer of the product feels said product will be at its peak.
  • Best-if-used-by-date: This date is for the best flavor or quality. However, the USDA points out this is not a safety date.
  • Closed or Coded dates: It’s the packing number that the manufacturer uses.

Mostly, food products are frozen because a temperature deduction reduces the chemical reaction rate. The fewer chemical reactions, the greater the shelf life. You must have read many articles, “Keep in a cool, dry place.” Cool places reduce chemical reactions, and dry places have no moisture. It also reduces chemical reactions.

But what kind of chemical reactions are we talking about here? Food products get exposed to air and various other microorganisms. Microbes feed on our food and release broken-down sugars. Most of these sugars are harmless, so expired food isn’t unsafe to eat, though the quality and nutritional value are deprived. In this case, if medicines are too, the expiry date refers to the time in a particular environment.

For example, A medicine lasts for 10 Days at 20°C temperature, but if we change it to 10°C, it will last longer. But the question remains: What if no microbes attack the food? Then, will the food have a very long shelf life? To know that, we need to know how microbes deprive the nutritional value of food products. Most microbes feed on the food left by oxidation. It means the food has become stale because of chemical reactions with oxygen. They release enzymes that disturb the quality of our food.

Enzymes speed up chemical reactions. They can release foul odors and change shape, but that doesn’t mean the food becomes inedible. They can be eaten, but the quality is deprived, as is the Nutritional Value. But What if no microbes attack the food? Then, the shelf life increases. That is why we refrigerate our food. But still, it is in contact with air and oxygen and slowly gets stale. Refrigeration stops the growth of microbes.

For example, in our broccoli example, if we leave food in the open, it gets stale fast, whereas if we had refrigerated it, it would have been consumable for longer. If we completely stop oxygen from reaching the food. You have almost a very long shelf-life.

Medicines should always be taken within the expiration date. Otherwise, they will not prove effective in treatment. However, expiration does not necessarily mean ‘expire with food.’

Best before date vs expiry date

In Canada, the best-before date must be on all products with fewer than 90 days of shelf life. It means every package of food that is somewhat perishable. You’ll find the year, month, and day of that product. The manufacturer estimates that the food will remain wholesome and palatable and retain its nutrient content. It’s not an estimation of safety, though. What does it mean that it is legal to sell a product that has gone over its best-before date?

It is estimated that it might not be as fresh as it would have been sold within the best-before date. The expiry date is when the government concludes or regulates that this food cannot be sold. Also, there are specific subsets of food with expiration dates, and not all food has expiration dates.

The expired gate relates to the potency of the nutrient materials in food. So specifically, where you would find expiry dates on food products would be foods like infant formula liquid diets prepared for special medical conditions or meal replacements. They include dietary supplements as well.

So, when an expiry date is placed on these categories, they cannot legally be sold because there will be a change in the nutrient content. These categories of food are types of food that have specific nutritional functions. The other category of food consumers will come across will carry a slightly different estimate of the best before. That is a package on the date.

It’s required on all fresh meat and poultry and packaged on the date that correlates with the information. That is usually made available to consumers in a meat department as a poster. Here, the packaged date is considered in the light of information on a specific type of meat poultry you’re purchasing. The retail store will list when these products can be held in refrigerated storage areas following packaging on the date period.

The sell-by date is important because retailers take the product off the shelf on a specific date. So, a consumer won’t buy an out-of-date product. Dairy products can be used about 5 to 7 days after their sell-by date used by the retailer. Eggs also have an extended shelf-life, generally 3 to 5 weeks.

Finally, meats and cheeses should be used within four days of slicing the product at the deli. That date will generally show on all deli labels. Regarding shelf-stable product pantry goods, the code dates are primarily for freshness and quality issues. Crackers, cereal, and pasta can gradually decrease in quality.


In the case of food products, expiration dates are partly useless, but they are essential in medicines. So, feel free to eat those chip packets after expiration, but remember, always try to gobble up food before it expires to take full energy. Don’t hesitate to check the expiration date for medicines! So the next time you get a stomachache, remember why your medicines expire and take those medicines before time runs out!

Frequently asked questions

Which food never expires?

  • Honey.
  • White Rice.
  • Salt.
  • Soy Sauce.
  • Sugar.
  • Dried Beans.
  • Pure Maple Syrup.
  • Powdered Milk.

Is it safe to drink expired milk?

Milk is pasteurized, meaning harmful bacteria were removed long before it hit the shelves. Even though it might not taste great. The safety risk of drinking spoiled milk is virtually zero.

Why does water not expire?

Water has a very long shelf-life, so it technically does not expire. It is safe to consume water after expiration because drinking water’s shelf life changes with the container it is kept in. For example, in plastic water bottles, the expiry date refers to the plastic which holds the water.

After the expiry date, plastic will start degrading, disturbing water quality. But if we take a glass container, the shelf life of water will be longer. It depends upon the container used to store water.

You can still consume them. They will not cause food poisoning. They will have the least nutritional value. So, they are an estimation of the time. They can change depending on the conditions, like temperature.

As we conclude our exploration of “Why Is the Expiration Date Important,” I hope you’re walking away with valuable insights that will guide you in making informed decisions in your kitchen and while shopping. Remember, being mindful of expiration dates is not just about food safety; it’s also a step towards reducing waste and respecting the resources that go into our meals.

So, the next time you’re about to toss something in your cart or clean out your pantry, take a moment to check those dates. Until our next enlightening adventure, stay curious, eat safely, and here’s to making every bite count!

Read More: How Does Cold Medicine Work In Body?

Julia Rose

My name is Julia Rose. I'm a registered clinical therapist, researcher, and coach. I'm the author of this blog. There are also two authors: Dr. Monica Ciagne, a registered psychologist and motivational coach, and Douglas Jones, a university lecturer & science researcher.I would love to hear your opinion, question, suggestions, please let me know. We will try to help you.

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