Action 4 Investigates: Product Expiration Dates

From the carton of milk, to that bottle of vitamins expiration dates are everywhere.

But how helpful are these dates and what do they really mean?

Action 4 News went to an expert -- Carmen Llerandi, a dietician and assistant director of patient and care services at Valley Baptist Medical Center.

Llenrandi told Action 4 News there are all type of dates people can look out for one example is the "sell by date" on a carton of milk.

But if a product is past it's expiration date that doesn't mean you have to throw it out.

The sell by date is more a guide for the store to know how long it can display a product for sale.

"You can still use the milk afterwards however if when you open the container it smells sour you don't want to take a chance," Llerandi said.

Or take a loaf a bread for example, don't worry about the "sell by date" if you freeze the bread, you can still eat the loaf at a later date.

Llerandi points out that most expiration dates are not an indicator of safety but rather of the quality of the food.

That's where the " best if used by dates" come in.

"If you use it after that date, that means the quality is going to start to diminish," Llerandi said.

But if the product has passed it's "best if used by date", Llerandi told Action 4 the product is still safe to eat.

Right now, the Federal Government only requires a use-by, or expiration, dates on infant formula and some baby food.

That's because the items must contain a certain quantity of nutrients.

Llerandi said when it comes to these products don't go passed the expiration date.

And as far as medication goes?

"If it says expired I wouldn't use it.," Llerandi said.

Uimately, Llerandi said most of these labels should be used more as a guide, rather than a hard and fast expiration date.

But when in doubt throw it out !