When Is the Actual Expiration Date On Your Milk?

Getty Images/Stephen Chernin
Getty Images/Stephen Chernin

Confusion stemming from the date printed on the packages of food and when to actually dispose of it is a serious problem in the United States: Reportedly, around 90 percent of Americans throw out food prematurely. Despite this, and the efforts of consumer groups and processors in the 1970s and '80s, the federal government doesn't regulate dates on any food, or drink, outside of infant formula. Twenty states do have some rules with dating for milk products, but they're all slightly different.

So what chance do you have when you're staring at your week-old milk in the fridge? A really good one, in terms of survival: If you drink clearly sour and expired milk, you might get sick, but it's unlikely that you'll die. That date on the carton of milk, however, could mean very different things depending on what state you’re in. Some states require a sell by date, which indicates the last day a store can legally sell the milk; it's calculated to give the home consumer a reasonable amount of time to enjoy. Other states have a use by date that’s for consumers—it indicates the date that the milk is believed to be at peak flavor. So while milk cartons in Montana are labelled with a sell by date 12 days after pasteurization, nearby Washington requires a use by date that’s 21 days after pasteurization. Confused?

While the pasteurization of milk kills most of the harmful bacteria, precautions always need to be made by the consumer to keep the milk from going bad. It's mostly obvious stuff: Don't leave the milk out on the counter for a long time; don't expose it to light that can make it can lose its vitamins; and close the carton when you're done to prevent the absorption of flavors from other foods in your refrigerator. Another way to keep milk as fresh as possible is to always keep it on a shelf—never in the inside of the door of your fridge, where the temperature fluctuates the most. Depending on who you ask, the fridge temperature should be 34-38 °F or 38-40 °F. Warmer temperatures give bacteria more of a chance to develop. You could theoretically freeze your milk for up to three months, but it'll turn lumpy and yellow and yucky looking (though it's still safe to drink).

The accepted rule of thumb is that if you're properly refrigerating it, your carton of whole milk's expiration date is five days after the "sell-by" date. If it's "non-fat," "skim," or "reduced fat," you’ll have a little less time, and no one is quite sure why (although it seems that whole milk tends to go sour while skim milk tends to go bitter). "Ultra pasteurized" milk has a longer shelf life than other types of milk. If you happen to be particularly young, old, or, as Drew Harris, the chair of the New Jersey Public Health Institute put it, "immunocompromised," you should maybe cut a day or two from those estimations and proceed with more caution.

How Microwaving Food Affects Its Nutritional Value

iStock/grzymkiewicz
iStock/grzymkiewicz

There’s probably no household appliance that sees more use than a microwave. For people who don’t have the time or inclination to prepare dinners from scratch or heat meals in a conventional oven, zapping food has become the ultimate method of time management in the kitchen.

Some people harbor the belief that a price has to be paid for that convenience—specifically, that food loses nutritional value by being subjected to a quick nuking.

The truth? Microwaving doesn’t harm a food’s nutrients. In fact, it may preserve them more than some slow-cook methods do.

The reason is found in how microwaves work. The appliances heat food by blasting it with waves of energy not unlike radio waves. These waves target water and other molecules in the food. Thermal energy quickly builds up, and dishes come out heated in a relatively short period of time. This process avoids two of the factors that can lead to nutrient loss: cooking duration and high temperatures. Typically, the longer and hotter food is cooked, the more its nutritional value dissipates.

The other advantage is that microwaves don’t require water for heating. If you boil broccoli, for example, the hot water allows nutrients to leach out of the vegetable. (While that makes for a good stock, your broccoli may be robbed of some of its healthy benefits.) A quick steam in the microwave leaves broccoli relatively intact.

That’s not to say that microwave cooking is superior to a stovetop. Cooking foods at reasonable temperatures and durations shouldn’t result in significant nutrient loss, though some is inevitable for any manner of cooking. But microwaving isn’t going to erase nutrients via some mysterious microwave alchemy, either.

[h/t CNN]

Golden Girls Cereal Has Arrived

NBC
NBC

Fans of The Golden Girls can now spend their mornings with Dorothy, Blanche, Sophia, and Rose. The ladies of the beloved sitcom now have their own cereal—and it's only available for a limited time, Today reports.

Funko—the toy company known for its vinyl Pop! dolls depicting nearly every character in pop culture (including, of course, The Golden Girls)—rolled out the special-edition cereal in Target stores on September 30. The box is decorated with Funko-fied versions of the four leading ladies, and the multi-grain loops themselves are a shade of deep blue that would look great on one of Rose's dresses.

At $8 a box, the product is more expensive than your average breakfast cereal, but that price includes a little something extra. Each box of Golden Girls cereal comes with its own version of a prize inside: a Funko Pop! figurine of one of the four women.

The cereal won't remain on shelves forever, so collect all the dolls while you still can.

[h/t Today]

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