Out With The Old, In With The New: Decoding The Dates


Blog, Healthy Family
  • By Nikki Karetov, Soon-To-Be Registered Dietitian Nutritionist on
  • August 6th, 2017


“Out with the old, in with the new” is a familiar saying we’ve heard before, and it’s how most of us kick off our New Year. Now let’s apply this concept in the kitchen. How many of us pick up an item in our fridge, look at the date, and have second thoughts about whether our food is still safe for us to eat? We see the words “best by”, “use by”, or “sell-by,” followed by a date, but what does it all mean? I understand this terminology can be a bit confusing. Here are some pointers that can help you decode the dates so you can decide what goes out and what stays in. Read on to learn more about out with the old, in with the new: Decoding the Dates.

Use-by, best before, best if used by – This is a date made up by the manufacturer to ensure the freshest, highest quality product if consumed before the date that is printed on the package. It is not an expiration date, so you don’t have to be so quick to throw away food if you notice it’s past the date provided. Give it a good look and smell test if you are unsure.

Sell-by – This is the last date the grocery store will keep the item on the shelf, but that does not mean it should be the last day on your shelf. You can still enjoy these items past the date provided. BUT, if you are unsure, examine it before eating it by smelling it and looking for color changes.

Expires on – I usually see these on canned foods, boxes of pasta, and many other pantry staples. Sometimes it’s just a printed date. If it’s past the expiration date, I advise not to use it. It’s not worth risking a food-borne illness.

Feel guilty about throwing food away? Check out your local food bank to see if they will take your items for donation.

By Nikki Karetov, Soon-To-Be Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

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