Shelf Life

Food products and drugs are both consumable goods which means they have something important in common: every one of them expires. These products only have a certain period of shelf life. Once they expire, their quality is reduced every day they’re not disposed of.

That’s why manufacturers provide expiration dates for consumable goods to inform consumers. An expiration date is a day after which a consumable product like food or medicine shouldn’t be used because it may be damaged, spoiled, or ineffective. It’s one of the things shoppers look for to ensure that they’re buying good quality consumables.

Expiration dates are that important; however, not all consumers are aware of what happens when they keep a product beyond their expiration date. This blog will discuss those things you should know about expiration dates.

Ways food manufacturers decide expiration dates

Producers decide on when their products will stay of good quality. They consider different factors to determine their expiration dates. These include the following:

  • Length of time in storage while the food is in distribution and before being offered for sale
  • Storage temperature
  • Characteristics of a particular food
  • Type of packaging

While it’s true that product quality will deteriorate once it expires, it should still be safe if handled properly. Before consuming the whole product, consumers can assess the food product’s quality by looking, smelling, touching, and tasting a bit to see if it’s showing signs of spoilage. For example, you can put loaf bread inside your fridge, and it’ll still be consumable even beyond its expiration date.

The law about expiration date

In the U.S., federal law doesn’t mandate expiration dates on food. Instead, they’re voluntary and entirely at the discretion of manufacturers. However, some states require them for meat or milk.

For drugs, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires drug manufacturers to provide stability testing data with a proposed expiration date when applying for approval. This is to provide confidence to consumers that their drug meets the applicable standards of strength, quality, and purity throughout its shelf life.

If a food or drug manufacturer provided an inaccurate expiration date, they could be held liable. If their product gets spoiled before expiration while in storage before being sold or after, consumers can report consumer fraud.

Phrases used to label food product expiration dates

Manufacturers use different phrases to describe expiration dates. Here are each of them:

  • Best if used by/before: This means a product will be of best flavor and quality if used by or before the date and don’t indicate safety or when to purchase.
  • Sell-by: A sell-by date indicates to stores how long they should display the product for sale and isn’t a safety date.
  • Use-by: This date recommends using the product while it’s at peak quality and isn’t a safety date except for infant formula.
  • Freeze-by: This date is an indication of when a product should be frozen to maintain its best quality.

Why it’s risky to use expired pharmaceuticals

Pharmaceuticals become hazardous when you use them after the expiration date. That’s because their chemical composition can change over time, making them less effective and even harmful to your health. In some cases, the FDA extends the expiration date of a drug to address its shortage. They do so by reviewing the stability data for the drug.

Disposing expired pharmaceuticals

Discarding pharmaceuticals should be more thorough compared to how you do it with other products. Check the packaging for disposal instructions and follow them properly. If there are none, you should check for drug take-back programs in your municipality to help you discard your expired drug.

If you can’t find any, you can follow the federal guidelines for drug disposal. Federal guidelines recommend that you put expired medicine in a bag or container and mix them with kitty litter or coffee grounds. Other medications should be flushed down the drain.


Knowing a product’s expiration date is important to ensure you consume or use them at their best quality. It’s your responsibility as a consumer, so you don’t have to suffer the consequences. As a consumer, you can also read more about dangerous consumer products of 2021

Author’s Bio:

Author Pitty ThingsDeinah Storm used to work in the corporate world as a marketing affiliate. She quit her job to pursue her passion for writing, but to this day, Deinah is committed to educating consumers about the different marketing scams and how to avoid them.