But, it turns out we've been fed a bunch of rotten lies about our food going bad. Smithsonian Magazine notes that the whole concept of expiration dates is not only completely arbitrary, but it was cooked up as a result of the paranoia of consumers like us.
According to a recent report from the Natural Resources Defense Council, the expiration dates on most of our foods have no scientific basis. As more and more processed foods cropped up on supermarket shelves in the 1960s and 1970s, shoppers started getting nervous about all those new chemicals they were ingesting. The food-labeling system we have today grew out of public demand rather than legislation or any scientific research. Basically, manufacturers started slapping arbitrary dates on bags of chips and cartons of eggs because consumers wanted some sort of guidance on what was okay to eat. In fact, the only product that is required by federal law to display a sell-by date is baby formula. (Although, many states have laws mandating them for animal products like meat and milk.)
So, is there any point in checking that little black date? An increasing number of food-industry experts are making the decision to just use their noses (and eyes) to determine whether that yogurt is safe to eat. Of course, that would require us all to know what spoiled food looks and smells like in the first place. (Smithsonian Magazine)