Most processed foods have a much longer shelf life than it says on their labels. But it's a combination of regulations that limit what the labels can say. For one thing, people might think it's gross to buy "foods" that can be eaten up to ten years after purchased.(more) For another, it really hurts sales, potentially. For another, even the government regulators don't want to acknowledge that Skippy Peanut Butter, for example, can last in the jar for at least ten years--probably longer.
Expiration dates didn't start to be put on products like these until the 1920's. There'd just be a "packaged on" date. Then it was up to the purchaser to decide how long they wanted to hang onto that can of peaches, or whatever.
One of my favorite books as a kid, or at any rate a book I read over and over--we were a big library family, so the books we owned I read a million times--was a strange little novel about a couple of kids who somehow ended up on an island. I think it must've been pretty close to their home, or where they were spending the summer, anyway. But they got stranded there, and after the first day, all they had to eat was what had been left on the island, in a little shed, a stash of cans. I remember canned peaches. I don't know what else. But the labels were gone from the cans, so they just had to eat whatever was in the can they opened.
But most of the cans were still good. I do remember that.(less)
Eden stared at the small bottle in her hand, dumbfounded.
"Oh, is that the rosemary?" Carver asked, peering over her shoulder. "I haven't used that in a while."
"That's good, considering its use-by date is for a good five years ago." Eden put it aside and began checking th(more)e rest of the herbs in the back of his cupboard. They were all in a similar state. Having seen enough to form her conclusion, she gaped at Carver. "What do you eat?"
He indicated the freezer behind him with his thumb. "Much easier. And I do use some of those things occasionally."
Eden continued to stare.
"Some of us don't get huge government grants to sit around in libraries."
"I haven't gotten a government grant in a decade." Not for what she really wanted to work on, at least. "We're going shopping." (less)