LOS ANGELES -- They're on almost everything you buy in the store: Food product dates.
The terms "sell by," "use by," even "best by" are found on food from perishables to canned goods.
With the exception of baby formula the terms or dates on these packages are not government mandated, but rather are suggestions the food manufacturer is either giving to the grocer or the consumer. They are not usually about safety, but taste.
According to the USDA the terms mean the following:
"Sell-By" date tells the store how long to display the product for sale. If you have a product where this date has passed it doesn't mean the product is bad.
"Best if Used By (or Before)" date is recommended for best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
A "Use-By" date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. The date has been determined by the manufacturer of the product.
Keep in mind many foods are still good after these dates have passed if stored properly. The fridge should be kept at 40 degrees or lower.
Store eggs and milk in the main compartment as the door is the warmest part of the fridge.
Produce like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and leafy greens like more humidity, but apples, peppers, squash, grapes, mushrooms and ripe avocados like a drier climate.
You do want to pay attention to the 'use by' date if you are eating unpasteurized dairy, deli meat and smoked fish as these foods have a higher food safety risk.
Beyond that, avoid waste by taking stock in what you throw away. Don't buy large quantities if you don't have a large crowd to support the purchase, and if you do buy big, make several meals to freeze and serve for later.
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