Shelf Life Post-Expiration/Sell-By Date

Can anyone point to a book/website that will tell me how long particular items last past the printed expiration or sell-by date? For example, I know that the milk in my fridge isn’t going to suddenly go bust the day after the expiration date, but how long will it be safe for (I mean, before it starts showing/emitting signs of definite spoilage)? Three days? A week? The same goes for eggs - surely the sell-by date isn’t the same as the expiration date, right? I recall hearing about a book that had all these date guidelines, but I can’t remember if it was real or a pure pigment of my imagination.

(Of course, all the dates assume proper storage.)

I have used an unopened container of heavy cream at least 1 1/2 moths past the date stamped on the flap. I would not have been at all suprised if it had been bad though. YMMV

Sorry, no books to recommend.

I don’t have any books to point you to but having worked in the floor deli (that’s dairy to you) section of the grocery store for the last five years I think that I’m qualified to answer your question. They send us notices and reminders on this stuff every couple of months.

All dairy products should be good for a week from when you open them, regardless of the sell-by date on the container as long as you practice proper handling (in other words put the carton back in the fridge and not sitting out while you finish your bowl of Trix). So if you open a carton of milk on the 1[sup]st[/sup] it’ll be good to the 8[sup]th[/sup], even if the date on the carton is the 20[sup]th[/sup]. However if you were to open the same carton on the 19[sup]th[/sup] it’d be good to the 26[sup]th[/sup], which is well past the sell-by date. Of course this is all rule of thumb and you may find an opened container lasting for a couple of weeks after the sell-by date. If all else fails just do the sniff test.

Eggs I was a bit more sketchy on. I did some googling and came up with this link that states eggs can be stored for a month or so on average which jives with the snippets of info I’ve gotten on the job.

I should mention that this info may not apply outside the U.S. Someone on the board from Australia had a similar question a while ago and claimed that they only had expiration dates on dairy products and no sell-by dates and there are probably other differences.

Thanks, GaryM and Asylum. The bit about dairy products being good for a week after opening is news to me. And the chart is basically what I was looking for.