What do those dates mean on the food I buy?
Food dating stamps, like the Nutrition Facts label, give you good information about the food you buy. They can tell you when to keep a food and eat it, and when you should throw it out! You just need to know what the different stamps mean to keep your food safe to eat and tasting good, too.
Most of the dates you see on food are for quality, not food safety. Foods are often safe to eat past the date on the label, as long as there are no visible signs that the food is spoiled.
This is last date recommended for use of the food. For the best taste and texture, use the food before the date has passed. It is not a safety date, except when used for baby formula.
Generally, throw away any food that is past the Use-By date. Some canned foods may still be good, but, when you open the can, if the color, texture, or odor of the food isn’t right, throw it out!
“Exp” stands for “Expiration” date. For the best taste and texture, use the food before the date has passed.
Generally, throw away any food that is past the Expiration date. The exception is eggs. If they have been kept in the refrigerator, eggs can still be used 3 to 5 weeks after the Expiration date.
This date tells the store how long to keep the food on the shelf for sale. It is not a safety date.
Use before or shortly after the date has passed. Sometimes, grocery stores will have sales on foods that are close to their Sell-By date. You can get a good bargain, but be sure to use it soon!
Do not buy foods that are past their Sell-By date.
Best if used by/before
For the best taste and texture, use before or shortly after the date has passed. This is not a purchase or safety date.
Throw away any foods that are more than a few days past the date. If the foods have not been stored properly, throw them out earlier.
For baby formula or pre-packaged, washed produce (like bags of salad), throw it away immediately when the date has passed. No exceptions!
For more information:
Food Safety and Inspection Service. USDA. Food Product Dating. https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/food-labeling/food-product-dating/food-product-dating