What's The Difference Between Best Before And Expiration Date?
You probably have noticed this while shopping at the supermarket. On some products, the label says "best before", while on some others, it says "expiration date". Now, you may never really paid too much attention to it and just throw everything away that has passed the date. What's the difference between the two dates?
In the US, laws are not extremely well-defined or strict regarding the use of "expiration date" and "best before". Usually, it's up to companies to define it to comply with the food safety protocol. In general, the expiration date means the product is no longer safe to consume once it passed the expiration date. It may go bad and cause illness if consumed after the expiration date. Whereas "best before" acts as a guideline to consumers that a product may be less desirable after the date, it may lose colors, odor, or it's fine-texture, etc, but it by no means reduces its safety to consume. You may still consume it past the date and it won't cause any physical harm, it may only be less tasty.
Egg products like eggs and dairy products are usually labeled with "best before", meaning you can still consume it if you deem the product hasn't gone bad. If you have eggs that have passed the best before the date and you are wondering if they are still safe to consume, read on!
12 Things You Should Know About Eating Eggs Past Best Date
1. Is this batch locally produced?
As a general rule, eggs that are locally produced can last longer than imported eggs due to transportation. Imported eggs are usually flown in. Temperature and moisture up in the air can change drastically, despite producers' best effort to control it. Those factors may cause the eggs to go bad sooner than expected. For most eggs, it won't be a one-trip journey until they arrive on the shelf of your local market. It usually takes a few flights, truck rides, in and out of warehouse fridges, before they arrive for your selection. All those add to the uncertainty of its actual best before date.
Locally produced eggs suffer a lot less from such horrid journey. Eggs may arrive directly from local farm to the nearby supermarket, adding to the safety and stability for the batch. You may want to skip this batch if it's imported from somewhere far away and just go ahead if the farm that produced it is right around the corner.
2. Did you keep them in the fridge?
Keeping the eggs in the fridge delays the rotting process. You can keep the eggs for up to almost three weeks after the best before date if you store them in the fridge. Like all food products, the cold temperature in the fridge delays bacteria from growing and keep the food fresh and hygienic.
However, do seek the extreme and put your eggs in the freezer. It will, without a doubt, destroy the natural texture of the eggs.
3. Is it winter or summer?
Some people don't really like to store eggs in the fridge as they believe the coldness takes away the natural taste of eggs. You can choose to store eggs in room temperature, depending on the season. If it's summer, the hot temperature accelerates bacteria growth and will easily cause the eggs to be infested with bacteria that causes food poisoning. If it's winter and it gets to minus, the kitchen counter can be cold enough to store the eggs for up to a week past its best before date.
Although one thing to note is that kitchen counter is an open area that won't stop your egg shells from contacting bacteria in the air. Containing them in the fridge is the best way to avoid bacteria growth, regardless of the season.
4. Does it smell funny when you crack it?
A funky smell could suggest that the egg has already gone bad. Eggs don't usually come with a repelling odor. If you suspect the whole batch had gone bad, crack one open and see. If one is bad, chances are, the rest are bad too.
5. What does it sound like when you shake it?
A healthy, fresh egg shouldn't make any sound when shaken gently. On the contrary, due to air infiltrating the shell after going bad, a bad egg would be filled with air, hence making some sound when shaken. Trying to shake a few eggs in the batch after the best before date to determine if air has invaded the shell to determine how safe it is to still consume the eggs.
6. Use a light
Under a flash of light, a healthy egg should appear to be clear and semi-transparent with a thin shell, while a rotten egg should be muddy under a light. Using light to determine the quality of the eggs is actually a fun experiment in science class for a lot of kids. If you have kids, you probably know this trick already from your kids' science project!
7. Put the egg on a bowl of water
As mentioned above, rotten eggs are filled with air infiltrating the shell. Putting the egg in a bowl of water helps to see if the egg is filled with air or not. If it floats, then it probably has gone bad as there's quite some air inside the egg. If it sinks, it looks good and you can go ahead and cook it!
8. What could you get from eating eggs past best before date?
Well, nothing, if your eggs are still good after the best before date. However, consuming rotten eggs past before date could have some serious implications. You may get food poisoning, leading to diarrhea, fever, nausea and muscle pain, etc. Medical attention will be required if it gets serious. In some milder cases, patients will recover on their own after a few brutal toilet trips.
For people with long-term disease or weak immune systems, the bacteria could lead to further complications such as difficulty in breathing, chest pain, and even delusion.
9. Are there rules to ban shops from selling eggs past best before dates?
No. Unlike food products labeled with an expiration date, all best before date products are subject to a more loose regulation as those products can indeed still be safely consumed past its best before date. Most shops will reduce the price of products that are about to hit its best before date or right on the best before date. Even though there aren't strict regulations against selling food products past its best before date. Most shops still choose to dispose of its products that have gone past the date to avoid public outcry and controversy.
10. What are some common bacteria found in rotten eggs?
Pseudomonas, Proteus, Alcaligenes, Aeromonas, and coliforms, according to scientific research. All these bacteria cause food poisoning and infects the patient through direct ingesting of the food. These bacteria grow when the eggs are not stored properly, the temperature is too high, too close to other food items, etc.
For a normal person with a healthy immune system, these bacteria won't lead to death. A few painful visits to the bathroom or to the hospital, maybe. For the elderly or the young, this could be deadly. That's why eating eggs past best before date is usually not recommended for people with a weaker immune system.
11. Whose fault is it if you get food poisoning from consuming eggs past best before date?
Although there are no strict laws restricting shops from selling eggs past best before date, it could be a scandal or a lawsuit for the company if the customer suffer from any complications from eating the eggs. You may contact your supermarket if you purchased eggs past best before date and developed symptoms of food poisoning after consuming it.
The same for restaurants. In any cases of food poisoning, alert the authority if you suspect the restaurant is using unclean or spoiled eggs in their products. But if you buy the eggs before the best before date and simply decide to eat it a month after and got sick, well, that's on you.
12. Can I boil the egg and kill the bacteria?
No, unfortunately it doesn't work that way. Once the egg is contaminated with the bacteria, there's no escape. You can only throw the egg away as it is not good for consumption anymore. Even after cooking the egg, the spoiled egg will still make you sick. Don't trust all the "hacks" online that teaches you how to magically make your egg fresh again. If it's good days are gone, they are gone, there's no save to it. Throw it in the trash can for everyone's sake.
There's so much to learn about eggs, the most basic ingredient, yet the most complicated one. Next time when you are strolling down the market, think about how safe the eggs will be for the duration that you want them to be. Eggs can even expire before its best date due to various reasons. Always check carefully before consuming, even before the best before date, and pay double attention when it goes past its best before date!