Food Product Dating

Have you ever wondered what "sell by", "best if used by", "best before" means when you pick up a carton of eggs or milk?  Not all foods are required by law to give product dating information.  This blog will help answer the questions you have about the safety of your purchased foods.

Safety after the date expires
If you have a food at home that is past it's "use-by" date, you should not consume it due to safety reasons.  Other dates, such as "sell by", "best if used by", and "expiration date" refer to food quality -- these foods should still be safe to eat past those dates if handled safely and kept refrigerated (at 40 degrees F or below) or frozen (0 degrees F or below).  If food starts to have an off smell, flavor, or odd look, it is likely due to spoilage bacteria.  While this bacteria may not make you sick, it won't taste very good and should not be consumed (like when your milk sours).

Storage tips
  • Purchase food before the "use-by" date expires.
  • Follow handling instructions on the product.
  • Once a fresh product such as meat is purchased, take the food home immediately and refrigerate it.  Make sure your refrigerator temperature is set to 40 degrees or below.
  • Once a fresh product such as chicken is frozen, it does not matter if the date expires because foods kept frozen will last from 4 to 12 months.
Let's take a look at the different types of labels that you will see on food products.
  • Sell by date -- this date tells the store how long to display the product for sale.  You should buy the product before the date expires.   Cook or freeze the food by the stated date.
  • Best if used by (or before) -- this date is recommended for best flavor or quality.  It is not a purchase or safety date.  Food is safe past the "best if used by" date.
  • Use by -- this date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality.  the dates has been determined by the manufacturer of the product.  When the used by date has passed, throw the food away.
  •  Expiration date -- states the shelf-life or the last day product should be used for the best quality.   When the expiration date has passed, throw the food away.

There's an app to take if leftovers are still good.  The Foodkeeper app from USDA allows your to check to see if the food in your refrigerator or pantry is still good.  Look for Foodkeeper in the Apple or Google Play stores.

For more information food dating, visit Food Product Dating


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© Eat Smart, Be Fit Maryland!Maira Gall