The US Department of Agriculture calls it Food product dating, we know it as expiration dates on the many foods we buy. Except those dates are not as valid as they appear, most products are good way past the printed date and some years past. Sugar, honey, vanilla and other extracts, salt, vinegar can last just about forever. Rice and lentils for example are good for years, except for brown rice which is only good for months. Eggs last far longer than their dates and canned goods unless there are rust or bulges on the cans can last years too. The dates are, according to the NYT article I urge you to look at, arbitrarily arrived at, and do not mean the food item is spoiled. As far as I can tell the dates are decided upon by the manufacturer, therefore tend to be on the conservative side. That wouldn’t be surprising since it would encourage greater consumption. In an era when we need to be mindful of how we use resources, this invites unnecessary waste. In fact the notion of expiration dates not representing the end of product usability is not new. A while back I did a piece on medications which also do not have accurate dating.
Expiration dates are so much part of our culture, we don’t give them much thought and assume if it says January 2022 it is January 2022. This revelation, spurred by the need for many to use what’s in their pantry during being sheltered at home, forces us to think for ourselves, to use our common sense about what is spoiled and what is not. Let’s call it a silver lining from the pandemic.