Shelf Life of
The Definition of “Use By Date”
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 fresh food consumer, is 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 item in question, you may find it interesting to learn that:
- 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 not the items true Shelf Life.
- Dating is not federally required, except for infant formula and baby food.
- 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 “Use By Date,” but please see the pages for specific items to know how long each may be used for or how long the Use By Date is.
So, what is the “Use By Date” of a food item?
The “Use By Date” is the last day that the manufacturer vouches for the product’s quality. The use by date is the date the manufacturers recommend to use the product for “peak quality” in the food. So you may eat the food after the use by date, but it likely is not going to be at peak quality.
To find out how long foods are good beyond their Use By Date, please visit the
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