The Definition of Use By Dates

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 use-by date, or any printed date on a food item in question, you may find it interesting to learn the following facts associated with the shelf life of foods.

Food Use By 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.

  • Use By Date Definition

    Below is a standard definition for “Use By Date,” but please see the individual pages for specific items to know how long each item may be actually used.

    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 manufacturer recommends that the consumer use their 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 if a use-by date has passed.

    The pages of EatByDate provide additional information on how to tell if products have gone bad and proper food storage to extend a products shelf life.

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

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    How Long Does Butter Last?

    How Long Does Butter Last?

    How long does butter last? The shelf life of butter depends on a variety of factors, such as the production method, its Best By Date and how it is stored. Butter is a dairy product made by churning fresh cream or milk until it reaches a solid form. It is most frequently made with cows milk but can also be manufactured from sheep, goats, buffalo and yaks.

    Butter comes in numerous types such as cultured, uncultured, salted, preserved and whipped butter. In addition to its use as a cooking tool and being used as a tasty compliment to items such as bread or potatoes, butter does have some nutritional benefits which include a high dose of vitamin A.

    So, how long does butter last? When properly stored at or below 40°F, the shelf life of butter beyond it's best before date is approximately...

    Butter Expiration Date

    (Unopened) Refrigerator Freezer
    Past Printed Date Past Printed Date
    Butter lasts for 1 Month 6-9 Months
    Butter with oil lasts for 2 Months 6-9 Months
    (Opened) Refrigerator Freezer
    Butter lasts for 2 Weeks 6-9 Months
    Butter with oil lasts for 2-3 Weeks 6-9 Months

    Of course, dairy products may be purchased, stored and prepared in many different ways, each of which can result in a different expiration date. All foods last for a shorter period of time if they are not stored properly. But remember, many food products carry a "best by date" which is simply the last date the manufacturer will guaranty the quality, not the safety, of their product. Because of this distinction, you may safely use butter to compliment your favorite meals even after the best by date has lapsed (see above table).

    How to tell if Butter is bad, rotten or spoiled?

    Practicing proper hygiene and food safety techniques will help prevent foodborne illness.

    Although not a perfect test, your senses are usually the most reliable instruments to tell if it butter has gone bad.

    Spoiled butter will begin to appear pale, may possibly grow mold and will be either too soft or too hard and difficult to spread. In addition, spoiled butter can smell stale, cheesy or decomposed.

    If your product has gone bad and you need a quick substitute, then check our page on butter substitutes

    There are, of course, certain health risks associated with spoiled foods, so always remember to practice food safety and enjoy your foods before their shelf life has expired.

    How to store Butter to extend its shelf life?

    Proper food storage is key to extending the expiration date of food.

    You can help keep yours fresh longer by storing it in your refrigerator immediately after purchase and after each use. Proper refrigeration --at 40°F or below-- is vital. Store butter on an interior refrigerator shelf rather than in the door, where the temperature fluctuates with frequent opening.

    Although salted varieties may last longer, we do recommend that you follow the same storage methods discussed above.

    For a long-term option, you can freeze it for about 6 months while preserving its taste if you replace the wax rapper with foil or another freezer friendly product.

    Some benefits of proper food storage include eating healthier, cutting food costs and helping the environment by avoiding waste.

    Interesting facts about Butter:

    Commercially prepared butter can safely be stored on the counter, however, it is not recommended if your intent is to extend its shelf life and freshness. Butter is like a sponge, it absorbs the odors from surrounding foods quite easily and this will affect its taste.

    If you are storing butter on the counter, we recommend keeping it in a tightly sealed container to block odors and bacteria. The butter will last for several days at a temperature of 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • An unopened container should last for 1-3 months at 40°F or less in the refrigerator, but some companies guarantee their product for up to 6 months.
  • If left in its partially-open original paper wrap, the exposed area stick butter will begin to harden and smell stale after about a week, as oxygen sets in.
  • Commercial processing of butter removes dangerous bacteria.
  • How to use extra before your Butter goes bad?

  • An unopened container should last for 1-3 months at 40°F or less in the refrigerator, but some companies guarantee their product for up to 6 months.
  • If left in its partially-open original paper wrap, the exposed area of stick butter will begin to harden and smell stale after about a week, as oxygen sets in.
  • Commercial processing of butter removes dangerous bacteria.
  • View Margarine for a comparison of Margarine vs Butter.
  • Check salted vs unsalted to compare butters.
  • How long is Butter good for when prepared in a dish?

    How long does butter last? That depends. How long does bread last? In general, all foods last only as long as the quickest expiring ingredient that they are mixed with.

    What are our shelf life resources?

    In determining how long Butter lasts, our content incorporates research from multiple resources, including the United States Department of Agriculture and the United States Food & Drug Administration. In addition, we scoured the web for informative articles and reports related to food safety, food storage and the shelf life of Butter.

    *An important note about expiration dates...

    Although the Butter shelf life information on Eat By Date is generally reliable, please remember that individual cases will vary and that our advice should only be taken as an opinion and not a replacement for your health care prefessional. Please eat responsibly!