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 sections of Eat By Date or use the search function below.

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