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.

Each State’s Favorite Christmas Candy

CandyStore.com
CandyStore.com

Halloween might be the unrivaled champion of candy-related holidays, but that doesn’t mean Christmas hasn’t carved out a large, chocolate Santa-shaped niche for itself in the sweets marketplace. And, of course, we can’t forget about candy canes, peppermint bark, and the red-and-green version of virtually every other kind of candy.

To find out which candies merrymakers are filling their bowls and stomachs with this holiday season, CandyStore.com analyzed survey responses from more than 32,000 consumers across the nation and compiled their top responses into one mouthwatering map.

As it turns out, 13 states—from California all the way to New Jersey—are reaching for mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups over any other holiday candy. Something about that shimmery tinfoil really does make you feel like you’re unwrapping a tiny, tasty gift.

CandyStore.com Top Christmas Candy by State

Source: CandyStore.com

And, if you hoped everyone would kiss candy corn goodbye until next October, we have some bad news: “reindeer” corn, with red, white, and green stripes, is the top choice in a staggering eight states, all of which are in the eastern half of the country. Tied with reindeer corn was peppermint bark, which, given how much white chocolate it contains, is also a pretty polarizing choice.

Candy canes and Hershey’s Kisses clinched third place with a respectable six states apiece, but other Christmas classics didn’t perform nearly as well—chocolate Santas and M&M’s came out on top in only two states each.

After that, there were some rather unconventional competitors, including Starburst, Arkansas’s favorite holiday candy; and Pez, which somehow won the hearts of residents of both Louisiana and New Mexico. 

And, unless you’re time-traveling from the 18th century, you’re probably not surprised that sugarplums didn’t make the map at all—find out what they actually are (hint: not plums!) here. You can also search the full list of state favorite candies below.

Source: CandyStore.com

Relax: Fears of a French Fry Shortage Are Probably Overblown

magann/iStock via Getty Images
magann/iStock via Getty Images

Americans love their French fries. According to The New York Times, Americans eat an average of an average of 115.6 pounds of white potatoes annually, "of which two-thirds are in the form of French fries, potato chips and other frozen or processed potato products."

If you’re someone who annually devours the weight of a small child in fries at McDonald's or elsewhere, you’ll be distressed that potato farmers are facing a shortage—one that could create a fry crisis. But these concerns are likely overblown.

According to Bloomberg, a cold snap in October led to crop-threatening frosts at potato farms in Manitoba in Canada, as well as in North Dakota and Minnesota. In Manitoba, 12,000 acres went unharvested, the equivalent to what was left behind in all of Canada last season. Fields in Idaho and Alberta, Canada, were also hit, but some crops were able to be salvaged. Combined with increased demand in Canada for spuds, North America is looking at a potential tuber deficit.

Why are fries facing shortages, but not mashed potatoes? Fry vendors prefer bigger potatoes for slicing, which tend to be harvested later in the year and were subject to ground freezing and other damage.

This all sounds like cause for national alarm, but the spud industry has taken measures to keep the market fed. Potato experts told Bloomberg that while potato shipments will likely have to be rerouted from more fertile farms and into new distribution channels, the consumer may not notice any difference. A plea for rational thought was echoed by Frank Muir, president of Idaho Potato Commission. Muir told The New York Times that while Idaho is down 1 billion spuds, the state still managed 13 billion. His message to consumers is “Don’t panic … You can still go out and order them as you normally do.”

According to Muir, the major fast food chains—McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger King, among others—have temperature-controlled storage for their potatoes and probably have an inventory to fall back on. Rationing won't be needed—unless, of course, you’re watching your weight.

[h/t Bloomberg]

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