The Tightwad’s Notebook–Lesson #12: Understanding Food Expiration Date Lingo–Part 2

English: Original Dark Peanut Chews by Just Bo...
I didn’t buy this–I found this photo on WordPress for blog usage, but it shows candy that went bad. You can see the the chocolate candy is spotty, even though it was still considered within its expiration date on the package. Yuck. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Tightwad’s Notebook–Lesson #12: Understanding Food Expiration Date Lingo–Part 2

It’s one thing to read the expiration date on your food labels (see Lesson #11), it’s another thing to understand what all the lingo means. I found a great article on WebMD that explains it. Go the article for lots more info, but here’s a quick capsule of the info that’s great to know. Bottom line: it’s not the end of the world if you buy something after the stamped date (well, dairy/meat would be the exception in my book!), it just won’t be as fresh or at its peak quality, but the product seems to still be edible, according to the article.

  • “Sell by” date. More for the retailer than the consumer — it tells the store how long to display the item for sale. The “sell by” date is the last day the item is at its highest level of quality, but it will still be edible for some time after.
  • “Best if used by (or before)” date. This refers strictly to quality, not safety. This date is recommended for best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date. .
  • “Guaranteed fresh” date. Used on bakery items and means their peak freshness declines after that date, but still edible.
  • “Use by” date. This is the last date recommended for the use of the product while it’s at peak quality. After the date, it’s downhill, but still edible.

~Marilyn, TFF