Shelf life can be defined two ways according to BePrepared.com:
Best if used by shelf life - Length of time food retains most of its original taste and nutrition.
Life sustaining shelf life - Length of time food preserves life, without becoming inedible.
There can be a wide time gap between these two definitions of shelf life. For example, most foods available in the grocery store that are dated have a best if used by date that ranges from a few weeks to a few years. On the other hand, scientific studies have determined that when properly stored, powdered milk has a life sustaining shelf life of 20 years. That is, the stored powdered milk may not taste as good as fresh powdered milk, but it retains some nutritional value and is still edible.
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