“Use by” vs. “Best by” dates: Know when to throw (out)

Diet & Nutrition

“Sell by,” “Use by,” “Best used by,” – do you know your packaged food lingo? Their real meanings may surprise you. Let’s start with the two safety-related terms:

  • Sell by—The last day the store should sell a product. When you buy, you should plan to use or freeze products within the time recommended by the FDA on their Refrigerator and Freezer Storage Chart.
  • Use by—The date that the manufacturer last recommends that you use their product. It is NOT recommended that you use the product beyond this date.

There is also a quality-related term that tells you when food is past its best flavor or other quality standards—Best if used by. Food beyond its “Best if used by” date can still be safely enjoyed as long as it is stored and handled properly.

It’s important to remember that foods can still be contaminated and cause food poisoning if they are “in date.” Always use safe food handling practices like washing your hands, keeping raw foods separate, cooking thoroughly and refrigerating as soon as possible.

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