- "Sell-By" tells the store how long a product should be on the shelf at the store. This does not mean the product is bad it just means that according to the manufacturer, the store should not display the item on the shelf any longer. It will still be edible for some time after the date.
- "Best if Used By" just means that the manufacturer wants you to use this product by the date for the best taste or freshness of the product. It does not mean the product is unsafe to eat.
- "Guaranteed Fresh By" usually refers to bakery items. The food is still edible after the date but it may have a stale taste.
- "Use-By" means that the manufacturer suggests this is the last date you should use the product for peak quality only.
- "Coded Dates" are also called closed dates. These are packing codes for use by the manufacturer.
Here are some tips to remember if food is kept at proper refrigeration. Just remember to use your senses.
- Milk is usually fine for up to a week after the "Sell By" date. Make sure it is kept refrigerated at 38 degrees.
- Eggs, if you bought them before the "Sell By" date, should be fine to eat for 3-5 weeks.
- Poultry and seafood should be cooked or frozen with 1-2 days. Keep them refrigerated at 32 degrees.
- Beef and pork should be cooked or frozen within 3-5 days.
- If you freeze beef, poultry, pork and seafood right away you don't need to worry about using them before the posted date. This is because if they are kept continuously frozen they will be safe indefinitely.
If foods are mishandled, however, foodborne bacteria can grow and cause foodborne illness. these can happen before or after the date on the package. For example, if food like hamburgers or hot dogs are taken to a picnic and left out several hours, they might not be safe to eat even if the date hasn't expired.
Other examples of potential mishandling are products that have been: defrosted at room temperature for more than two hours; cross contaminated; or handled by people who don't practice proper sanitation. Make sure to follow the handling and preparation instructions on the label to ensure top quality and safety.