Expiry dates on food

When traveling, my packing-list includes emptying out the fridge before heading to the airport. Fortunately, I have almost nothing perishable in the fridge (chocolate, cliff bars, coffee, beer, vodka all last a *long* time), so this is quick.
However, when throwing out the last of the milk, I noticed the expiry date:

  1. A typo; ARP should be APR! Huh!? I always assumed those dates were all computer timestamped, but is there really a human putting in a new expiry date every day? Has anyone else ever noticed something like this?
  2. Since when did milk last over a month? This milk was bought slightly over a week ago (approx Feb 20th) and claims to be good until April 5th, which is approx 6 weeks!?! How is that possible? I’m used to milk only being good for a few days.

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20 thoughts on “Expiry dates on food”

  1. Bad news, that milk went bad on Arpil 9th, 2005!

    Seriously, though, it just depends on how it’s pasteurized. For example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UHT

    Specialty milk (lactose-free, organic, etc) that presumably doesn’t sell as quickly has been produced with a longer shelf life for quite some time… I’ve taken to looking for it because I have the bad habit of buying a carton and forgetting about it for a week or two. It also seems to last longer once opened.

  2. Or ARP should be mAR? Only one letter out and would explain point 2.

    Still doesn’t explain the stupid date order that America insists on (everywhere else is in ascending order – day month year)

  3. Organic milk lasts longer than normal milk for some reason. The claim I’ve heard is that lack of pasteurization has something to do with it, but I haven’t investigated to determine what exactly causes this.

    Speaking of which, I should make something that needs milk right now, seeing as I have a partial half gallon that’s about to go bad…

  4. Never heard of UHT milk (the label says ‘ultra pasteurized’, although that not entirely correct) ? UHT milk can have a shelf life of 6 to 9 months. If it’s still closed, it doesn’t need to be stored in the fridge either.


  5. Some of the ultra-pasteurized stuff that’s sealed well will keep a good long while. As long as you don’t open it, of course.

  6. If it’s ultra high temperature pasteurized milk, it could last months, unopened, at room temperature.

  7. Notice the “Ultra Pasteurized” on the box. That means it was pasteurized well enough that it will last for six weeks (or whatever) unopened, but there’s probably small print on the side that says it only lasts a week once opened. (That’s also a “Sell by” date rather than a “Drink by” date.)

  8. That particular brand, Horizon Organic, always seems to have expiration dates two weeks or so longer than every other brand.

  9. I use to work at a spice company and I helped develop there date coding software. You actually have to have some pretty high tech manufacturing equipment to allow the lines to communicate with your erp. Also, there were lots of instances where we needed to allow manually entering date codes versus using what was generated in the erp.

  10. UHT milk has a much longer shelf life than normal milk. Because there are fewer organic dairies, they have to ship their milk to stores farther away. So organic milk in stores is often UHT processed.

  11. There are one or two new processes available which push the time limit for “fresh milk” up to around two to three weeks. As far as I remember one process uses special micro-filtering in order to get rid of milk components which decay rather quickly. The result is fresh milk that is good for a longer period. But I haven’t yet to see six weeks…

  12. That’s not a typo. With ulta-pasteurization and special packaging the milk really is good for over a month. I buy organic milk for exactly that reason…

  13. I think that’s a sell-by date–as in, “will last *at least* this long while sealed. Past that, no commercially-backed guarantees.” Just guessing.

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