Translating Fresh Food Labels

How do you know if the food in your refrigerator, which has an expiration date on it, can still be used by you for a safe meal?

Are you throwing away good food?

It is often confusing about how long it is safe to eat an item after the “sell by date”. I understand that it is defined for the store retailer. I know to purchase the freshest item. What should I do if I purchased the item long before the “sell by date” – but I did not use it – Now what?

Lindsay Backer, a registered dietitian and food safety expert advises that if it is meat, it is not recommended to go much beyond the sell by date. The U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) advises to use or freeze beef, veal, pork, and lamb products with a “Sell-By” date within 3 to 5 days of purchase. Fresh chicken, turkey, ground meat, and ground poultry should be cooked or frozen within 1 to 2 days of purchase.

Web MD has other recommendations that we can use to help us decipher how to manage getting the best freshness from our food purchases and making sure not to waste the food we buy.

*Best if used by (or before)” date:
Refers to quality not safety.
*Use by” date: Last date at peak quality (by manufacturer).
* Milk is ok up to one week after “Sell By” date.
* Eggs purchased before “Sell By” date are ok 3-5 weeks after.

Food Pantries do accept food that may appear to be expired. The Canned Food Alliance has guidelines.  Click this link for detailed information. When do canned foods really expire? (today.com)

For more information and guidelines on food expiration use the sources below:
Food Expiration Dates – How Long Does Food Last in the Fridge – WomansDay.com
Do Food Expiration Dates Really Matter? (webmd.com)
Home (usda.gov)

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