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The Truth Behind Expiration Dates

By Paula Ebben, WBZ-TV
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(File photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

(File photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

WBZ-TV's Paula Ebben Paula Ebben
Award-winning journalist Paula Ebben co-anchors WBZ-TV News at 6PM...
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BOSTON (CBS) – You could be tossing hundreds of dollars a year in the trash if you’re throwing away food because of the number marked on the package.

That date may not give you the best idea if your food is actually safe to eat.

Those “sell-by,” “use-by,” and “best-by” dates can get confusing and food safety expert Brian Buckley says “enormous amounts of food get discarded based on these dates and its really a shame because it is perfectly fine, edible, wholesome food, But, people see the date and react to that.”

The dates on canned and packaged foods are more an indication of quality not food safety.

Even the “sell-by” date on milk is only a suggestion.

The only foods required to carry an expiration date are infant formula and some baby foods.

Dr. Andrew Glyptis says the shelf life of food also depends on how the product is stored.

Dr. Glyptis says, “if you have not opened the package and you’ve stored it in your refrigerator most food products will still be good beyond their expiration date.”

Bottom line: trust your nose and your eyes and then the calendar.

From the grocery store to the drug store, products with active ingredients like toothpaste and sunscreen will list a date that guarantees how long the product will work.

WBZ-TV’s Paula Ebben reports

Cosmetics are not required to have expiration dates.

So, if you see a date on your lipstick or blush you should know those are voluntary and up to the manufacturer.

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