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We are all familiar with those tiny, almost illegible, hard to read dates on food packages. Some say sell by followed by a date, Others are used by, Some say use or freeze by, Many say best used by, But one thing they all have in common is nobody really seems to know what they mean. This is. because In most cases, there's no regulation, law or rule defining what these labels mean. However, there are, in some cases. Here is what you need to know.

Sell by dates

This date is primarily intended for retailers. It indicates the last date by which the product should be sold to ensure that consumers have enough time to use it at home. It doesn't necessarily mean the product is bad after this date; it's more about ensuring the product's quality up to a certain point. Consumers should still use their judgment and check the product's appearance, smell, and texture. The "Sell-By" date is not the same as a "use by" date. In most cases, these dates are simply a recommendation by the manufacturer to the grocery store or farmers market as to when they should move the produce off the shelf. that's all it is. It's ok if the sell-by date expires while you have the food stored properly, it will be perfectly safe to use. The general rule of thumb is most foods are good for. one to two weeks after the sell by date. It varies by the particular item though. fresh. fruits, for example, may rot within a few days on a hot counter. but a carton of milk is good for at least a couple of weeks if kept in a refrigerator between 33 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Best Used by dates

Again, this is simply a recommendation. This date is a guideline for consumers and indicates the last date recommended for consuming the product at its peak quality. Consuming the product after this date might result in a decline in flavor, texture, or nutritional value. For perishable foods like dairy and fresh meat, it's generally best to follow this date closely to ensure safety and quality.

 if you stop and think about it for a minute, you will realize that it's in the producer or manufacturers best interest to make this date as conservative as possible. For one thing, it'll have people throwing more of it out and buying more of their produce. a little bit of common sense goes along way. if you store the food properly, meaning refrigerated items kept in a refrigerator between 30. 4 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit Canned items kept on a cool, dark shark. , et cetera, you. usually will exceed the use by date considerably.

Best Before" Date

Similar to the "Use By" date, the "Best Before" date indicates the date until which the product is expected to be at its best quality in terms of taste, texture, and appearance. After this date, the product might still be safe to consume, but it could start to lose its optimal quality. This date is commonly found on non-perishable or shelf-stable items like canned goods, dried pasta, and packaged snacks.

Use or Freeze by dates

This date is often found on perishable items that are meant to be frozen for later use. It's an indicator of the date until which the product should be frozen to maintain its quality. Freezing can extend the storage life of foods, but it won't improve the quality beyond what it was at the time of freezing. Again, this is a recommendation only. However, as you can guess, since the manufacturer has nothing to gain, by you freezing the food, it's probably a good date to follow. Most foods that can be safely frozen should be frozen as soon as practical. In other words, don't store it in the fridge for two weeks, then freeze it and think it's going to taste better later.

Pack Date" or "Production Date"

These dates indicate when the product was manufactured or packaged. They're useful for tracking the age of the product, especially for items that have a limited shelf life. However, these dates are usually not required to be deciphered by consumers, and they can vary in format. In other words, they're pretty meaningless for consumers. As we mentioned, canned items are usually good indefinitely. So this date is irrelevant if the packaging is intact. 

How to properly store various foods and food items

Labeling, sell-by, use-by and recommendations for specific items


It's important to note that these date labels are not federally regulated in all countries, and their meanings might vary based on local regulations and industry practices. Additionally, proper storage conditions play a significant role in how long a product remains safe and maintains its quality. When in doubt, use your senses (sight, smell, and taste) to assess the condition of the product, and when in question, it's always safer to discard if you suspect the product has gone bad.



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