Sell-By, Use-By, Best-By Dates: Do You Really Know The Difference?



Billions of pounds of food are wasted each year and confusion over date labels is a primary reason. Understanding the difference between sell-by, use-by and best-by dates can help lower this problem.

The Sell-By Date

The sell-by date label is provided for the retailers to let them know the date the product should be sold or removed from the shelf. This date does not mean that this is the last day the product is safe to consume. About one-third of a products shelf life remains after the sell-by date for the consumer to follow at home.

The Use-By Date

The use-by date is provided for the consumer and suggests the date the food should be consumed by. The main reason for this date concerns the quality of the product and does not necessarily mean that the product will make the consumer sick if consumed after this date. However, after the use-by date has passed, the product quality is likely to go down much faster and the safety of the product can be lessened.

The Best-By Date

The best-by date is provided for the consumer to suggest the date the product should be consumed by to assure ideal quality. Keep in mind that smell and taste are not always good indicators of whether a food is safe to eat.

Other Food Packaging Labels

The nutrition labels on the front of food packages enable consumers to make healthier food choices. A number of labels have been developed in recent years by industry and health promotion organizations. The majority of these labels include values for energy, sugar, fat, saturated fat and salt, but some also include percentage Guideline Daily Amounts or traffic light colors to help consumers understand the numerical values. In some cases a logo is included on the label to indicate that the food is a healthier choice.

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