Use by? Sell by?

It’s April 19th and you’re grocery shopping. You pick up a container of cottage cheese and it says “Sell by April 20th”. Does this mean you’ll have to eat it all tonight? Expiration dates on food can be very confusing, since they don’t always mean the food expires on that date. Read our quick tips and demystify the dates!

Use by or best if used by: This is the last date the product is expected to be at peak flavor and quality. It doesn’t mean that the food is unsafe to eat after that date. Some foods taste stale after this date, so you’ll probably want to buy a fresher product.

Sell by: The last date on which a product should be sold. Most retailers will pull the product after this date, or mark the price down for a quick sale. However, the food does not have to be eaten by this date. The sell by date takes into account time for the food to be stored and used at home. For example, milk should still be good to drink up to seven days after the sell by date.

Pack date: This is the date the food was packed or processed. You can choose a fresher product by choosing the earliest pack date.

Expiration: This indicates the last date on which the food should be eaten or used. However, eggs are an exception to the rule. The expiration date on eggs actually indicates the last date they should be sold, which is usually 30 days after they were packed. Eggs can be safely eaten 3 to 5 weeks after the expiration date.


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