Food Expiration Dates & What they All Mean

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Food Expiration Dates Know-Hows

food expiration dates

You’ve cleaned out or re-arranged your pantry and food expiration dates are past today’s, so now what? Eat it or throw it away? Open the container, smell it and taste it? What we have come to think of as an expiration date really isn’t an expiration at all and in most cases the food is still safe to eat.

Types of dates 

  • Sell By date tells the store how long to display the product for sale.
  • Best If Used By date is recommended for the quality and flavor.
  • Use By date is the last date recommended for the use of the product for its peak quality determined by the manufacturer.
  • Closed or Coded dates contain packing numbers used by the manufacturer.
What is food dating and is food safe to eat after “use by” date?

Usually yes. Dating food is a manufactures recommendation to use use the food by the stamped date for the best quality, nutritional value and flavor.

Are Food Expiration Dates required by law?

With the exception of baby formula, no, companies are not required to date food. Federal regulations require a “use by” date on formula for 2 reasons, to ensure nutritional quality and if the formula sits too long it can separate and clog the nipple.

What is the recommended storage length of time?

High acid foods such as tomatoes, pineapple and other citrus fruits will retain the best quality if used within 12-18 months, low acid foods such as meat, seafood and most vegetables will retain the best quality if used within 2-5 years if the can remains in good condition and has been properly stored in a cool dry place.

Dates on egg cartons

Federal law does not require dates on eggs but some states do. Egg cartons with the USDA shield on them must display the pack date. Eggs are usually in stores within 3 days of being laid and the USDA recommends using eggs within 3-5 weeks of purchase.

Don’t be too quick too toss the food out you may very well have a freezer friendly soup in the making. If food smells like tin then don’t bother tasting it.

All of the food expiration dates information in this article was obtained solely from the USDA Food and Safety Inspection Service website.  For more information please visit their website.


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