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FGCU Campus Food Pantry

FGCU Campus Food Pantry

Food Facts

 
 

 Dates on Food

The dates on food labels can be confusing. The truth is, they often have nothing to do with food safety.  Here's what you really need to know.

  • Use-By, Best if Used By, Best By, Best Before: These "use by" and “best” dates are generally found on shelf-stable products such as mustard, mayonnaise, and peanut butter.
  • Sell-By: Most sell-by dates are found on perishables like meat, seafood, poultry and milk. The date is a guide for stores to know how long they can display a particular product. This date has no meaning if the product is frozen and handled safely when thawing and preparing. 
  • Expires On: The only place you’re likely to encounter this type of date is on infant formula and some baby foods, which are the only food products the federal government regulates with regard to dating. You should always use the product before this date has passed.


The date, which is provided voluntarily by the manufacturer, tells you how long the product is likely to remain at its absolute best quality when unopened. But, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service point out, it is not a safety date.

After the "use by" or “best” date has passed, you may start to notice gradual changes in the unopened product’s texture, color, or flavor. But as long as you’ve been storing the unopened item properly, you can generally consume it beyond this date.

Your best bet for gauging whether an unopened shelf-stable product with this type of date is still of satisfactory quality is to simply smell and examine it first. Always discard foods that have developed an off odor, flavor or appearance. You can also consult the www.stilltasty.com for optimal food storage times, for both unopened and opened items. 

You may also consult the USDA website for facts on fresh or frozen meats.

 Never consume or even taste food or beverages you are uncertain about.

WHEN IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT!!