Ah, the expiration date. It's a safety feature that, I'll admit, I probably ignore more often than I should. Sometimes if it passes the smell and looks test, I move on to a taste test and if it passes that, I go ahead and eat the food even if the expiration date says not to (within reason of course).
Oh, don't look at me like that! Who wants to waste more food than necessary?! Depending on the type of expiration date on the container, that food may still be perfectly good. But how to know? Here's some of the most common expiration date styles and what they mean according to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service:
- Use By - this date is the last date recommended for the use of product while at peak quality; the date has been determined by the manufacturer. Often you'll see this on fresh foods like dairy and meat products; either use or freeze these items by the "use by" date and don't purchase items past their "use by" date.
- Best Before/Best If Used By - this date is recommended for best flavor and/or quality; it is not a purchase or safety date. Products with these types of dates are generally still safe to consume even after the "best before" date.
- Sell By/Packed On - this date tells the store how long to display a product for sale; you should buy the product before the date expires, but that doesn't mean you have to consume the product by then.
And one bonus,