Summer Reminders: Best-by, Use-by & Sell-by Dates


With summer back in full swing, spending more time outdoors enjoying the weather gets bumped a little higher on the ‘to-do’ list. Grilling-out is a great way to relax with friends and reconnect with family all while building healthy summer eating habits. With everyone gathered at your house, ready to eat, one thing can really put a damper on your cookout – spoiled food.

As the heat sets in for the coming months it is imperative for you to keep an eye on the status of your food.  By making a habit of checking the best-by, use-by & sell-by dates marked on your groceries, you can ensure safer eating for your family and friends.

What Do These Dates Really Mean?

As defined by the USDA:

Best-By: This date is recommended for best flavor or quality – not a purchase or safety date.
·         This is a suggestion to the consumer on which date the product should be consumed by to ensure ideal quality
·         Food can still be okay to eat past this date but peak quality should not be expected

Use-By: This is an indication of the last date recommended for the use of the product.
·         The label has been determined by the manufacturer of the product.
·         After this date, product quality is likely to diminish much faster and food safety could be a concern.
·         The item will not necessarily make you sick if eaten after the use-by date, just be aware of how the product appears or smells.

Sell-By: This date tells the store how long to display the product for sale.
·         You should buy the product before the date expires.
·         This label is aimed at retailers, and it informs them of the date by which the product should be sold or removed from shelf life.
·         This does not mean that the product is unsafe to consume after the date
·         Typically one-third of a product’s shelf-life remains after the sell-by date for the consumer to use at home.

Keeping track of your food’s quality and freshness can make all the difference for your summer cooking adventures. Having a clear understanding of food product dates will help make your culinary creations this summer more enjoyable for everyone and expand your culinary expertise.


To learn more about health topics like this one, as well as other topics that are important to you, visit our Health (e) Library

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