When you purchase food items at your local grocery store, you may notice a printed sell by date, use by date or best before date on the packaging or item itself and wonder just what that date really means. Here at Eat By Date, we are doing our best to make sure that you, the conscious consumer, are fully informed about the true “shelf life” of the most popular food items. As we have learned, most food is still edible after these printed expiration dates have passed.

When reviewing the printed date on the food item in question, you may find it interesting to learn the following facts associated with the shelf life of foods.

Food Sell By Date Laws

Shelf Life of Eggs

  • Food Can Be Sold After a Date Expires – Stores are not legally required to remove food from the shelf once the expiration date has passed.  The expiration dates are strictly “advisory” in nature and are left entirely to the discretion of the manufacturer, thus not truly indicative of an items true Shelf Life.[1]


  • Food Dates Are Not Required By Law – With the exception of infant formula and baby food, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require food companies to place dates on their food products. The only requirement is that the food is wholesome and fit for consumption.


  • Laws Vary By State – States have varying food dating laws. For example, many states require that milk and other perishables be sold before the expiration date, while others do not.


  • Food Sell By Date Definition

    Below is a standard definition for “Sell By Date,” but please see the individual EatByDate pages for specific items to know how long each may be used after the Sell By Date has passed (the home shelf life of your product).

    So, what is the Sell By Date of a food item?

    The “Sell By Date” on a product is the items expiration date, the end of its shelf life at the store. This is the last date stores are supposed to display the product for sale, after the Sell By Date the stores should remove the product, the store Shelf Life has expired. Although the food product may be used and enjoyed past this date, it is not recommended to purchase a product if the Sell By date has past. This date is not as common as a best-by date. If you do purchase a product with an expired sell-by date, you should get it on clearance and you should be going to use it very quickly after purchase.

    To find out how long other foods are good for, please visit the Dairy, Drinks, Fruits, Grains, Proteins, Vegetables and Other sections of Eat By Date or use the search function below.

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