What expiration dates really mean

What Expiration Dates Really Mean

We've all been there: you're starving, searching for nearest edible thing, and right before you dig in, you see the expiration date.

Well, wait a minute before you toss out that milk that's just one day past it's posted date.

The United States alone contributes to 30 percent of the world's annual food waste. That's 48.3 billion dollars thrown out every year!

Just because it's past the due date doesn't mean it's gone bad.

Here's a guide to what certain dates on your food products mean:

The "sell by," "best if used by," and "best before" dates are the last day a certain item will be at it's best quality, but it should still be good for some time afterwards.

The "use by" date is the last day the manufacturer says an item should be used, but it doesn't mean the product is unsafe after that date.

If you're in the bakery section you might see a "guaranteed fresh" date posted. It's just for freshness, not edibility.

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What expiration dates really mean


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Ice cream

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Mac and Cheese 

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Potato chips

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Mexican food 

(Photo: Shutterstock)


If you buy canned foods you'll see a "pack" date usually displayed on the can but that is really for the manufacturer and not for the consumer.

All these dates you see on your produce are really just a suggestion from the manufacturer. There are no federal guidelines that determine those dates mean anything.

Throw food away if it smells or tastes a little off, if the coloring is even slightly weird, and definitely toss it out if there's mold or signs of spoilage. But if you store your food properly, it should be good to eat a little past it's designated dates.

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