Expiration dates: the foods we keep, and the ones we throw away

What is the difference between DLC and DLUO? How are the expiration dates calculated? Can we consume an “officially” expired product? What are the most dangerous foods? We take stock, once and for all.

To start, you have to look at food labels. According to the law, they must include “the date until which the food retains its specific properties, as well as the indication of the particular conditions of conservation”. Behind this somewhat vague formulation, the professionals created two types of dates on the labels, the DLC and the BBD.

The expiration date (DLC)

It is indicated by the words “consume until …” followed by the day, month and year. This mention is compulsory for perishable products: beyond this date, food indeed presents an immediate danger to health (salmonellosis, listeriosis, etc.). It should therefore never be exceeded.

The best use by date (Best before date)

After this date, the product can still be consumed, but its taste and nutritional qualities are no longer guaranteed: the cakes will be drier, the fruit juice will lose its vitamins, etc. But even if the risk is more limited, it is prudent to avoid consuming a product whose BBD has been exceeded since last Easter.

Is there a margin of a few days?

The egg test

To check that your egg can still be eaten, immerse it in a container filled with cold water. If it stays at the bottom, it is fresh; if it goes up slightly, it will still be good when cooked; if it floats on the surface, it must be thrown away. And if you like your boiled egg, it is recommended to taste it extra fresh, i.e. at most 9 days after laying.

The expiration date is calculated in the laboratory: the product is subjected to aging tests to assess when the quantity of bacteria is too large for it to be consumed. In general, laboratories keep a few days of security, to anticipate storage anomalies by consumers (break in the cold chain, for example). We can, therefore, consume a product without too much risk 24 hours after its expiration date. However, the risk depends on the food: a few days after its shelf life, a yogurt will simply become acidic, while cooked meats or cooked fish will become frankly dangerous.

Does an open product keep the same DLC?

Absolutely not. The deadline is calculated for normal conditions of use: product placed in the refrigerator, hermetically sealed, etc. As soon as a dairy, charcuterie or meat product has been started, you have 48 hours to consume it, regardless of its expiration date.

Can we freeze an expired product soon?

Yes, but take your precautions. It should be noted on a label the number of days remaining before the expiration date: once thawed, it is also the number of days you will have left to eat the product. On the other hand, never freeze a food whose expiration date has passed. Even if the freezing stops the growth of bacteria, it does not kill those that are initially present. When the product thaws, their proliferation will resume even more quickly and you run the risk of food poisoning.

We keep 

Good to know, honey, rice, spices, sugar, and pasta can be kept for years after the expiration date. In fact, bacteria cannot grow there. The only risk? Altered taste. You keep your plain yogurt for up to 3 weeks after the shelf life and your UHT milk (unopened) for up to 2 months after the expiration date.  

n the garbage!

Sometimes an unexpired food looks weird: do we clean or throw away? Here is a list – not exhaustive – of the foodstuffs which must go directly to the trash.

  • Bread, cereals or dried fruit with traces of mold: these can be extremely harmful.
  • Meat and sausage with plastic packaging inflated: it is the sign of a leak that may have allowed bacteria to develop.
  • Water-rich products with traces of mold, such as soups, juices, and compotes.
  • Tin cans with a domed lid: this is undoubtedly the sign of a significant presence of bacteria.
  • Meat, poultry or fish with a suspicious odor or a sticky appearance: the presence of salmonella is possible.
  • Eggs whose expiry date has been deleted and which rise to the surface when placed in water (see box) or cracked: the presence of salmonella is possible ( eggs are the main cause of foodborne infections of bacterial origin It is one of the foods that should not be played with.


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