Food & Drink

What does the date on an egg carton mean?

Fresh eggs in the carton can be refrigerated for weeks.
Fresh eggs in the carton can be refrigerated for weeks. OBSERVER FILE PHOTO

Q: How long is it safe to keep and use fresh eggs? If the carton says “best until Jan. 15,” what does that mean?

A: Fresh eggs will keep in the refrigerator for at least three to five weeks and sometimes longer. While eggs don’t have to be refrigerated, they will keep much longer that way. They also keep best in their carton, which protects them from being jostled and exposed to strong odors.

The date on cartons can mean different things. The USDA requires that the date be no more than 30 days after the eggs were packed. But as long as the eggs meet that requirement, different states and even brands can use different codes, such as a three-digit number on the side that corresponds to the day of the year. If there is a date, it’s a guide to when the eggs were packed into the carton.

Email questions about food and cooking to Kathleen Purvis, kpurvis@charlotteobserver.com.

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