Food Expiration Dates Uncovered

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Food expiration dates on groceries can be rather confusing. It’s supposed to be a helpful guideline to indicate when should throw the food away. But what if there is no expiration date, instead some odd “use by” or “best if used by” ect…


Use by, Best if used by, or a Quality Assurance date:

These dates do not imply that the food is unsafe to eat after the listed date. The date merely refers to flavor and quality. To receive the maximum amount of nutrients and peak flavor of this product it should be consumed prior to the date shown. A good example would be cereal. A box of cereal sitting in the cupboard for a lengthy period of time will not taste as fresh as a newly packaged one, nor will it be as nutritious.

Sell by or Pull date:

These dates are placed on products to suggest to the retailer the need of removing the items from the sales floor after the listed date. Another benefit of these dates it to advise store staff to move the item to the front of the shelf months before the date and weeks before the date to sell at a discounted price.

A sell by date does not indicate the food automatically “goes bad” on that date. Milk, for example would retain its flavor and freshness for approximately one week after the date, and chicken for one or two days.

Pack or Package Date:

This is a date placed on fresh meats and produce to indicate the date of packaging. This does not guarantee safety or freshness.

Born On date:

This is a practice initiated by Anheuser-Busch. Anheuser-Busch claims their beer tastes best within 110 days of the “Born on” date.

Coded date:

This is a series of letters, numbers, or both to indicate to the manufacturer which batches the foods originated in. This is useful in case of a recall in tracking down the product. Sometimes food products are shipped across many states and this code aids in locating the entire batch.

Use by or an Expiration date:

Food should not be consumed after this date. It should be considered unsafe and discarded.

Freshness date:

This date is generally used on baked goods. It is similar to the “best if used by” description in that the bread does not automatically “go bad” on the date listed, but it may not retain its softness and freshness.

That makes the whole thing a lot clearer.

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