Is food really good until the ‘best by’ date? How to interpret the confusing labels

Even if date on product has passed, chances are, it’s still good, USDA says

Expiration date.
Expiration date. (Graham Media Group 2021)

We’ve come a long way since early 2020, when many grocery stores struggled to keep their shelves stocked as the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread across the globe.

And while things certainly look better where grocery stores are concerned, we certainly don’t want to waste any food right now, and we also want to ensure we keep ourselves and our family as healthy as we can.

So, in order to take advantage of the food we buy for as long as possible, we wanted to know: How long is something actually good for? When is it really time to throw it out?

It turns out the “sell by,” “use by” and “best by” labels on foods do not mean the same thing.

For quick reference, here’s what each date means:

Best by: This date indicates when something is at its peak quality or flavor.

Sell by: This date refers to how long a store should display or sell an item.

Use by: This is the last recommended day a product can be eaten at peak quality.


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