Better Safe than Spoiled
Manufacturers put dates on food products for a reason. Sometimes the reason is for safety, in which case the product might say “Expires On”, “Use By”, or “Use Before.” In most cases, the dates on shelf stable foods are mostly for quality and are there to let customers know the food might not be as good as it could be after a certain date. Quality dates might say “Best By”, “Sell By”, or “Best if Used Before.”
There are national efforts to make date marking on products consistent, so customers know if the date is for safety or quality. Generally, if a product is perishable and requires refrigeration, it’s safest to use it by the expiration date. If a product is packaged and shelf-stable, the date is probably specific to quality instead of safety. However, there are some exceptions. For instance, powdered infant formula should never be sold or used after the expiration date listed on the container.
The USDA has created a useful database of suggested time frames in which foods should be consumed. Visit the FoodKeeper website or download the app on your phone for guidance on expiration dates, product recalls and other helpful information to help you get the most out of the food you buy.