Expiration Dates

It is definitely the nature of food banking that some of our products are either very close to their dates or beyond. We do have information about these dates, so we are quite careful about them.


One key is whether the questionable date is truly an “expired” by or a “best by” date. In many cases, it is a “best by” date. This simply means that the manufacturer recommends consuming the product by this date for premium tastiness. Sometimes the nutritional percentages begin to change after this date (i.e., meaning the item may no longer provide the 6% of your Recommended Daily Allowance of Vitamin C, for example). It is in no way unacceptable to eat an item beyond the “best by” date. As long as the packaging is intact, there is no doubt that the food will be safe and tasteful.

Some food (i.e., meat) will have a date on it … but the product was frozen before that date. Therefore, the item will have good life beyond the date.

When an item has an expiration date, we have guidelines that tell us how far beyond that date the product is still usable. Baby food, for example, must be eaten before expiration and not after. However, on the other end of the spectrum, pasta is good “several years” beyond the date!!

Packaging tells you a great deal — if a can isn’t bulging or leaking or damaged, etc., it’s likely to be good. Dented cans can be fine, as long as the dent doesn’t create metal to metal contact. But if the dent is on the top or the bottom of the can, that’s a much bigger concern as the seal may have been damaged and bacteria could penetrate.

Another factor is the storage of the product — cool, dry places can extend the life of the item.

Certainly common sense is part of the equation — if any item is questionable in color, smell, etc. it should be disposed of properly. Whenever we feel there is an item that is questionable, of course, we do not distribute it to our agencies.

Some products use “Code” dating. The best way to translate the code is to contact the manufacturer of the product. They will be able to tell you, based on the code, when the best buy date is.

Food Bank of Siouxland