I’m guilty as charged. When I see something in our fridge with an expiration date that claims the product is old, I’m very leery of eating it (and sometimes even smelling it!). So when I saw an article stating that “expiration date confusion leads nine out of 10 Americans to throw away food that’s perfectly good,” it caught my eye.
This led me to do some research, and what I found was honestly new to me and pretty interesting. According to the USDA and also NSF (The Public Health and Safety Organization), the wording in front of the expiration date makes a difference.
Types of Expiration Dates
1. Use by
This wording is more about food safety than any of the others. It’s commonly found on fresh foods like dairy and meat products. You should either use or freeze items by this date and obviously not purchase any food items past this date.
2. Best before/Best if used by
This statement is more about quality than anything else. It’s simply a guideline to let you know how long the product will remain at peak quality and freshness. It is generally still safe to consume the product after that date.
3. Sell by/Packed on
These dates are there to let the store know how long to display a product for sale. It’s a good idea to purchase products on or before the “Sell by” date, but that doesn’t mean they have to be consumed by then.
So I guess I’m going to rethink the maple syrup in the fridge that says “Best by July 9th.” Before I did the research for this post, I avoided using it, but now I know better! I hope this information helps you save some money by not throwing out food that is still perfectly fine to eat.