Posted February 22, 2010 by jimhigley

My oldest son will be home for a short break from college soon.

That means it’s time for me to clean out the refrigerator because all of the expiration dates on my food are about to be put under his magnifying glass.

My son, you see, is a card carrying member of the Expiration Date Police. And, he’s not afraid to flex his muscles in my home.

It starts the first few hours he’s home. He’ll go to the refrigerator to grab the carton of milk. A few beads of sweat start to pop up
on my brow. He’ll inspect the expiration date printed on the side, and then he’ll pour his glass of milk. My milk supply almost always passes his review. We go through milk like water. It’s when he returns the milk back to the refrigerator that trouble begins.

He first inspects his favorites. Barbecue sauce. Orange juice. Turkey slices. Cheese. He might as well be a prison warden inspecting a cell.

And then he’ll say things like, “When’s the last time you used the mayonnaise?”

“Probably your third grade lunch, O.K.?”

“Did you know the pudding cups expired last Thursday?”

“I was having a root canal that day. Sorry.”

All the good things I do for him and this is what he’s evaluating me on? Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against expiration dates on food. I think it’s a great idea. I actually look at them occasionally. But I don’t live my life by them. I tend to think they are more general in terms of their meaning. If my peanut butter officially “expired” a few weeks ago, I think it’s still good for a few more weeks. I think ketchup has at least twelve months of use after it’s considered expired. Maybe I’m wrong. If I am, shame on me.

But I am fairly confident that no one has gotten sick in my house as a result of something they ate.

I’ve also been doing a little research this last semester while he has been away. Do you know the difference between “Best Used By” and “Sell By” dates? I do now. And I’m betting my son doesn’t.

The Expiration Date Police is about to lose his badge.