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Is it safe to eat?

The truth about expiration dates and best by dates


Expiration Date:

An expiration date is a date that indicates the last day a product is recommended for consumption while still meeting its intended quality and safety standards. It will state: expires on or expiration date; otherwise it is a best buy date.


Best-By Date: This can cause a lot of confusion, while it looks like an expiration date, it is not. The best by date does not impact the safety of the food.

It's important to note that these dates are typically established by manufacturers based on their own testing and quality assessments. Regulatory bodies, such as the FDA, provide guidelines for labeling, but practices may vary.

Examples of commonly used phrases:

  • A "Best if Used By/Before" date indicates when a product will be of best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.

  • A "Sell-By" date tells the store how long to display the product for sale for inventory management. It is not a safety date.

  • A “Use-By" date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. It is not a safety date except for when used on infant formula as described below.

  • A “Freeze-By” date indicates when a product should be frozen to maintain peak quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.

Still not sure?

Spoiled foods will develop an off odor, flavor or texture due to naturally occurring spoilage bacteria. If a food has developed such spoilage characteristics, it should not be eaten.


When dealing with food products, using common sense and sensory evaluation (smell, appearance, taste) can also guide you. If a product looks or smells off, it's better to discard it, regardless of the date. Proper storage conditions, such as keeping items in a cool, dry place, can also extend the shelf life of products.

If you have the intention to store meat for an extended period, consider vacuum-sealing or using specialized freezer storage bags to minimize air exposure. Always use your best judgment and check for signs of spoilage. Please note: A change in the color of meat or poultry is not an indicator of spoilage

For more detailed information please visit:



USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service

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