Ask The Expert



 

Q: Food is expensive these days, so we’re into stocking up on our favorites. But, we wondered, on certain products such as milk, just how important are the expiration or “sell-by” dates? And while we’re on the topic, why is the expiration date so much sooner in New York City than in Westchester?

 

A: “They’re very important,” declares Gary Brown, director of the Westchester County Department of Consumer Protection, “because you want those products to still have a shelf life when you take them home.” Brown explains that most sell-by dates are determined by the manufacturer in order to ensure freshness and quality. In Westchester, items are prohibited by law from being sold after the expiration date. In fact, this past summer, the Department of Consumer Protection issued a total of $85,000 in fines to 33 stores for having an excess number of expired products on its shelves.

As it turns out, while you can’t buy the products, you still might be able to use them after the sell-by date. White Plains-based registered dietician and nutritionist Lisa Ellis assures, “If the milk is treated properly, it should be able to retain its freshness and nutrients for one to five days after the sell-by date.” She recommends not leaving the milk out on the counter, keeping it air-tight (leave the cap on), storing it under 40°F, and keeping it out of the light.

As for the NYC expiration date debate, according to Brown, “New York City has a regulation which says that milk may be legally sold only up to ninety-six hours after six am on the date after pasteurization. So the manufacturers can’t set their own dates for milk to be sold in New York City; the sell-by date is set according to that formula.”

For tips from Gary Brown on how to avoid buying expired products, visit westchestermagazine.com.

// Marisa Iallonardo