You already know the importance of using the ingredients list and nutrition facts label to help you decide which foods to incorporate into a healthy lifestyle. But, how many of you use DATES to determine which foods are safe to consume? I’ll be the first to say that the various “sell by”, “best by”, and “use by” dates get confusing! Here is what you need to know the next time you shop and clean out your fridge.
IMPORTANT TAKEAWAY: Except for infant formula, product dates are not expiration dates!! Instead, they indicate when products should be used for best quality. Most people assume these dates are actually expiration dates and just resort to tossing food… so wasteful! Instead, use the below guidelines to education yourself on food safety while reducing the amount of food waste in the home.
SELL BY – grocery stores use this date to determine when to sell an item by; this is not a safety deadline but instead notes how long items have been sitting on the shelf
BEST BY – recommended date for best flavor or quality; if you’ve stored and handled the product properly, food can safely be consumed after the best by date has passed
USE BY – recommended date for peak quality according to the manufacturer; same thing, if stored properly, food can safely be consumed past the use by date
Sometimes though, food goes bad before the date is reached. This is likely due to foodborne pathogens contaminating food that wasn’t properly stored and handled!! Bacteria can leave mold, unusual taste or odors – don’t eat these foods! Make sure to wash your hands when preparing meals, cook foods to their recommended internal temperatures, and refrigerate properly.
If all else fails, remember… When in doubt, throw it out!!
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