Ever Noticed Those Numbers on Egg Cartons Under the ‘Best By’ Date? Here’s What They Really Mean

The “best by” date is one of the first things we look for when picking up items such as milk and eggs.

But watch this out – “best by” date may not be the best indicator of freshness when it comes to eggs.

The FDA does not require that egg producers mark their cartons with a “best by” date- it is up to the manufacturers to decide whether to do so.

The optional “best by” date is not telling of how old the eggs may be. Instead, you should look 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 that the eggs were placed in the carton. For example, if the label contains the number 358, then the eggs were packaged on December 24.

This means that if you picked up a carton of eggs containing the Julian Date of 358 on January 20, those eggs would be at least twenty-six 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, in the example we gave you probably have another week or so to use the eggs before they go bad.

So if you’re buying eggs, look at the Julian Date, and if it is more than forty days old, the best thing you should do is to take a different carton.


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