We often find ourselves opening up the refrigerator or cupboard to find some of our food is beyond their due date. “Best By,” “Use by,” and “Sell by” are standard dates found on meats, poultry, or egg product. But what do they mean? Does it mean you probably shouldn’t eat it but still can? Does it mean it’s still good enough to eat but not good enough for the grocery store? Or that you should throw the food out altogether? These dates can be extremely confusing but do not worry because we are here to help!

If you are looking for a highly in-depth analysis of expiration dates, check out this article from the USDA. 

Food dates are standard on all types of food. It provides consumers with the information of when the item will be of the best quality and help the store determine how long to keep the food for sale. These dates are set by manufacturers and determined from various factors like the type of packaging, characteristics of the food, and more.

Let’s break it down:
  • “Best if Used By/Before” date suggests when a product will be of the best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date. Food is generally safe to eat after this date but may lack flavor, texture, or appearance.
  • A “Sell-By” date tells the store how long to display the product for sale for inventory management. It is not a safety date.
  • “Freeze-By” date indicates when a product should be frozen to maintain peak quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
So are foods still safe to eat after the date passes?

Trust yourself. It is best to use your eyes and nose to determine the quality of your food. Spoiled foods tend to develop an odor or different texture. If food starts to develop these things, it should not be eaten and should be disposed. If your food reaches the “best by” date, cooking or freezing extends how long food will keep. The freezer is your friend in all scenarios of reducing food waste!

The confusion over date labels results in consumers discarding good, wholesome food and contributing to a rise in food waste. Learn more, waste less. Join us and follow along with #901SaveTheFood to learn tips and tricks to become a food waste warrior.