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Understanding Food Product Dating

Understanding Food Product Dating
July 20, 2021 Food Pantry

On occasion, we receive questions about food we distribute being "past the expiration date." Have you ever wondered what "best by" and "use by" dates really mean? They're incredibly confusing, which causes well-intentioned people to throw away food that's still perfectly fine to eat. Here's a handy guide to date labels to help you prevent waste:

"Best by" and "best before" dates only indicate when food will be at its peak flavor or quality. They're not food safety dates.

"Sell by" dates exist to tell the store how long to display a food for inventory management purposes. They're also not food safety dates.

"Use by" dates are a recommendation for when to eat something while it's at peak quality. They're also not food safety dates unless they're on infant formula.

So when is something still okay to eat? Your eyes, nose, tongue, and common sense are all great tools to use when making that decision. Just remember that the numbers on the side only tell one part of the story.

Items that have been frozen before a best by or use by date (which is how we receive almost all of our frozen foods) will last for as long as they are stored properly, which could be years!

For more information about food product dating, click on this USDA link:

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