Shelf Life of
The Definition of “Shelf Life”
The Food Date Vocabulary Problem
Shelf Life Terms
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 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 true “shelf life”
of the most popular food items. As we have learned, most food is still edible after the expiration date
. When reviewing the printed date on the food item in question, you may find it interesting to learn that:
- Food Can Be Sold After 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.
- 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.
Below is a standard definition for “Shelf Life,” but please see the pages for specific items to know how long each may be used for or how long the Shelf Life is.
So, what is the “Shelf Life” of a food item?
The “Shelf Life” of food is used in reference to these common codes (Use by Date, Sell by Date, and Best Before Date). The Shelf Life depends on which code is used and the type of product in question. Please see the specific page for your product to determine the proper shelf life of food because the Shelf Life is different for each particular item!