For many grocery shoppers, the “Best By” date is one of the first things they look for when picking up items such as milk and eggs. And satisfied when they find that the date is far in the future, they go about their shopping.
But shockingly, when it comes to eggs, that “Best By” date may not be the best indicator of their freshness.
As Cosmopolitan reports, with the exception of baby formula, the “Best By” marking on products is done at the discretion of the food manufacturer. In other words, the FDA does not require that egg producers mark their cartons with a “Best By” date, it is up to them to decide whether to do so.
And according to Fresh Eggs Daily, that optional “Best By” date is not telling of how old the eggs may be. Instead, Fresh Eggs Daily suggests looking at another label on the carton, which is usually found below the “Best By” date.
That label includes a number, called the Julian Date, which marks the day of the year the the eggs were placed in the carton. For example, if the label contains the number 359, then the eggs were packaged on December 25.
This means that if a shopper picked up a carton of eggs containing the Julian Date of 359 on January 20, those eggs would be at least twenty-seven days old.
It is important to note that the Food Safety and Inspection Service says that, when refrigerated at forty-five degrees Fahrenheit, eggs should be good for four to five weeks beyond the Julian Date. As a result, regardless of what the “Best By” label may say, the customer in the example above probably has another week or so to use the eggs before they go bad.
So if you’re shopping for eggs and you see a Julian Date that is more than forty days old, it’s probably best to pick up a different carton.