2 Ways to Read Expiration Dates

You’ve devoted so much effort to building your kitchen with packaged foods and non-perishables, and the final step you have to accomplish is to throw stuff away as it’s over its expiry date.

Is it true that food expiration date codes indicate that food is good one day and rotten the next?

Would you throw away a whole can of marinara sauce since the expiration date has passed?

Is it OK to consume those two-week-old tinned strawberries? Isn’t it true that if anything is expired, it must be nasty or spoiled?

So, don’t get your hopes up. In normal periods, you would throw out those containers and not worry about the $1 you lost, but in a surviving crisis, these cans are vital, so knowing how to check their expiry time is crucial.

In this article, we will focus on how to read expiration dates and which canned food is good for consumption.

Why Do You Need to Know How to Read Expiration Dates?

Expiration Date on a Can (Credit Getty Images / Canva.com)

Although there is no universal labeling method for tinned goods, most firms utilize codes that are comparable to monitor various goods. 

Knowing how to recognize the far more typical production date ensures that all foodstuffs are fresh and safe for consumption. 

Many packaged foods have a “use by” time imprinted on it and then a label that is not coded. If you don’t have one, look for a coding number printed on the left or right side of a container.

When somebody is still not confident about the barcode on a can or the date by which they should utilize the goods, look for a toll-free number or a website on your canned food products.

If you’re unsure, ask the source. Some firms list the year or date first instead of the month, so if you’re unsure, contact the origin. 

For customers with queries regarding the expiration dates of their products, most manufacturers provide a phone number or a website. 

Even if you can’t read the code on the can or locate a “use by” date on the goods, most canned foods are safe to eat for two years after purchase. 

To keep your canned food fresh, keep it at a reasonable temperature. Storage conditions should not exceed 75 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the Canned Food Alliance.

2 Ways to Read Expiration Date Codes

Women Is Reading Expiration Date on a Can (Source Getty Images Signature / Canva.com)

There are two types of expiration date codes on products. The first type is open dating, which uses a standard time or calendar date. The second type is closed or coded dating, which requires a special deciphering key.

Open dating is found in most foods, including meat, poultry, egg, and dairy products. “Sell-by” tells the store how long to display the product for sale. You should buy the product before this date expires. “Best if used by (or before)” is intended for consumers to know when the product will be of the best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.

Coded dates are a series of letters and/or numbers applied to a product by manufacturers to indicate the date of production. Unlike open dating, consumers cannot easily decipher a coded date. However, if a product has a “use-by” or “best-by” date, you may be able to find out how long the product can be safely stored before it begins to deteriorate or become unsafe to consume.

How to Read Open-Date Label?

All perishable foods must have an expiration date.

You can find the expiration date on pre-packaged foods. The expiration date is voluntary for most other food products.

The expiration date tells you how long the product will be at its best quality. After that, the food may start to deteriorate even though it is still safe to eat.

“Best if used by” or “use before”

This date is recommended for the best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.


This date tells the store how long to display the product for sale. You should buy the product before this date expires.


This date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. The date has been determined by the manufacturer of the product.

You can still store and use products after the expiration date, but they may not be of their best quality.

Products with a “use-by” date must be consumed by that date to ensure safety.

How to Read Closed Coded Label?

Depending on how many digits are on the code and whether the starting character is a number or letter, you will be able to follow these instructions:

The most common closed label format is MMDDYY with 6 digits. Read these codes as MMDDYY, the first two digits are usually the month, the next two digits are the date, and the last two digits are usually the year. For example, 120723 means December 07, 2023. Check

MMDDYY format. (Source: Canva.com)

If you see a 3-digit code, it is probably the day of the week, this kind of code is usually used for short shelf life items like milk. For example, the code for milk is often 121, which means that the milk was packed on Tuesday and has a shelf life of 21 days. The code for eggs can be 006, which means that the eggs were packed on Saturday and have a shelf life of 6 days.

If you see a 5-digit code that starts with a P letter, this code can be deciphered by adding the numeric value of the starting letter to the last four digits of the code, this will give you the pack date. For example, if you see a code that says P3297, you would add 3 (the numeric value of the letter P) to 297, this would give you a packing date of 300 days from when the code was printed.

If you see a code that has a letter from A to L, you can use the letter to figure out the month. The rule is A-January, B-Febuary, and so on. After determining the month, read the number after the letters as the DD and YY. For example, D2823 means April 28, 2023.

Can You Eat Canned Food After the Best By or Best Before Date?

Can You Eat Canned Food After the Best By Date?

Canned food is generally safe to eat after the expiration date, but there are some things you should keep in mind. First of all, if the can is damaged or leaking, it’s best to discard it. If the can looks fine but the contents are spoiled, you can also try cooking them to see if that helps. Finally, if you’re unsure whether the food is still good, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and throw it out.

In general, canned foods will be safe to eat for 1-2 years after the expiration date. However, there are some exceptions. Canned meat and fish can last 3-5 years, while canned fruits and vegetables can last 2-4 years. If you’re ever in doubt, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and throw the food out.

If you have any canned food that is past its expiration date, there are a few things you can do to help extend its shelf life. First, make sure to store the cans in a cool, dry place. Exposure to heat, light, or moisture can cause the food to spoil more quickly. Second, if possible, store the cans upside down. This will help prevent air from getting into the can and spoiling the contents. Finally, if you open a can of food and don’t finish it, make sure to store the leftovers in a clean, airtight container. This will help keep them fresh for longer.

By following these tips, you can help ensure that your canned food will be safe to eat for as long as possible. However, if you’re ever in doubt, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and throw the food out.

Tips to Buy & Use Canned Foods

  • Because the foods on the front of the shelf have a shorter shelf life, shopkeepers place them in front to sell faster.
  • Many bottles merely have the month & year printed on them. Take the first date of each period indicated as the date.
  • Don’t rely just on the expiration date; follow your instincts. When your nose senses an unusual odor, trust it. Furthermore, you must always keep an eye out for potential alterations in the form of canned foods.
  • Keep canned foods at a cool temp.
  • Label all tinned foods with the time bought and keep in note the suggested two-year life span. One may also record the correct date upon the box’s label.
  • Buying damaged cans isn’t a huge problem if you expect to utilize the canned items within the following several weeks. Damaged cans can be found at a discount, but if you’re storing food, dented cans are a no-no.


In an ideal scenario, you’d keep the meal around 65 degrees Fahrenheit. The shelf life of canned foods is reduced by 50% for every 15 degrees that the temperature rises. In addition, the atmosphere must be dry and dark.

  • Make sure you smell anything that has gone past its expiration date before you actually consume it. Toss it out if you’re not sure about its fragrance.
  • The smell isn’t the only indicator that the meal isn’t up to par. When consuming canned food over its expiration date, there are a few more things to look out for.
  • Every coloring indicates that perhaps the foodstuff is potentially tainted. Any foodstuff with an unusual hue should be discarded.
  • When you unscrew a jar or can, it usually sprays liquid out, which is an indication that the food is rotten.
  • If mold is developing on the foodstuff, this indicates that the can had air in it. You have no way of knowing whether bacteria were growing or not.

Most firms use food expiry date codes on a voluntary basis and they aren’t set in stone.

If the product tastes and looks fine after the expiration date, it is probably safe to eat. To increase the shelf life of your food stockpile, make sure you store it appropriately.