I tend to be baffled by expiration dates on products.
The cynic in me often wonders if the expiration date on a particular product is really the truth. Is the product actually "bad" after that date? Or is it just some arbitrary date that a manufacturer decided to stamp on the item to make consumers think it was spoilt?
They know that if we sheep see some date on a product and if that date is in the past that we will likely throw the item away and buy a replacement the next time we're at the store because we assume the product is now bad. Or I guess baaaaad would be the appropriate word there. That's much more sheep-like.
The item with an expiration date that bothers me the most is bottled water.
Let me get this straight. You have water. It's been on this planet for a few billion years and I'm pretty sure doesn't require any additives and preservatives. How could it possibly expire? OK, so it must be the container. Wait, it's usually plastic. The same material that we have been told for years never ever decomposes and will be cluttering up the planet for millennia after we are all dead and gone.
So what could possibly expire with bottled water?
Maybe it's the ink they used to print the expiration date. Maybe the ink goes bad. Perhaps the manufacturer is warning us that after this particular date, do not -- under any circumstances -- lick the date stamped on the side of your bottle of Sparkling Spring Water or it will leave a bad taste in your mouth.
Sometimes there's just a date stamped on the side of product with no explanation. I really hate those products. What is the significance? After that date is the product "bad." Or does it not taste as good? Or is it just some random numbers that coincidentally look like a date?
The taste issue is apparent in some products. For instance, the sweetener that's used in some diet sodas tends to make the beverage taste kind of tinny after it's past its "best by" date. However, I've drunk beer long past its "freshness" date without noticing any problems. Of course, I store mine in the basement away from heat and light. That probably goes a long way towards extending that product's "shelf-life."
Some things are obvious when they are no longer good, such as milk. Before I have bowl of cereal I will glance at the date stamped on the jug and then -- just in case -- take a big sniff.
If the date is in the future and my nose doesn't detect any off-odor, it gets poured over whatever I am having, typically Shredded Mini-Wheats or Captain Crunch. Usually the sniff test is unnecessary, because at our house we rarely have a gallon of milk in the fridge that lasts until the expiration date on the container.
The most asinine expiration date was just foisted upon the American public within the past few months. The Cash for Clunkers program was a huge boondoggle that applied expiration dates to vehicles that were perfectly operational one moment and by executive decree, derelicts the next.
The pretense of the program was to create an incentive for users to replace their older "gas guzzlers" with more energy efficient vehicles. I suppose that part of the program technically worked, but from what I've read many of the gains in efficiency were marginal at best. It was a great deal for people who took advantage of the program. Can't fault them for glomming onto the 'free' money. And it gave a boost to new auto dealers nationwide.
But decreeing that a functioning vehicle is now junk and must be made unusable and completely scrapped because it was traded-in courtesy of a government program for a shiny-new replacement is ludicrous.
Ludicrous, but not surprising since it originated from our elected shepherds in Washington, DC, the creators of many a baaaaad idea.