September 23, 2023

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The importance of “Use By” Dates

Can you eat food after its “use by” or “sell by” date? Below, you’ll discover which “use by” and “sell by” dates are important...

Which “Use By” and “Sell By” Dates Are Important and Which Are Not?

When you buy food, it has either a “use by” or a “sell by” date. These are there to give you an idea of when the food will go off. However, many consumers are unaware of what these dates actually mean.

Can you eat food after its “use by” or “sell by” date? Below, you’ll discover which “use by” and “sell by” dates are important, and which aren’t.

What Are “Use By” and “Sell By” Dates?

“Use by” and “sell by” dates are very different. The “sell by” date is there for the grocery store’s reference. It tells them when they should sell the product until, giving the customer extra time to consume it.

“Use by” dates, on the other hand, relate to when the food should be consumed. They are there for consumer reference.

Another label sometimes used is “best by”. This is similar to the “use by” date, only it is more of a suggestion. Foods which pass their “best by” date are still safe to eat; they just might not taste as good as they would prior to the “best by” date.

Are They Important?

All dates displayed on produce are important. However, there are a few things to know before chucking away food that does go past its display date.

The “best by” and “sell by” dates are less important than “use by” dates. These basically highlight when the quality and freshness of the product is at its peak. Consuming foods after their “sell by” and “best by” dates isn’t usually dangerous. Instead, it just means you won’t experience the same level of quality.

“Use by” dates, however, can be really important. On most foods, eating them after their “use by” date won’t result in anything serious. However, some foods should never be eaten past the “use by” date due as they could make you seriously ill.

Which Foods Shouldn’t You Eat after Their “Use By” Date?

So, which foods should you never consume after their “use by” date? Generally speaking, the following foods should always be eaten before the date supplied:

Ground beef
Pre-made salads

The trouble with eating these foods after their “use by” date, is that bacteria are often present. This bacteria can be extremely harmful, and in some cases lead to severe food poisoning and even death. So, it is never worth the risk of eating these foods after their “use by” date.

The foods may still be perfectly fine a day or so after the date. However, you can only tell with fruits and pre-made salads. Meat that has gone off will also usually have a distinctly unpleasant smell. So if the food looks and smells fine, the chances are it is safe to eat. However, it’s still advised against.

So, now you know the difference between “use by,” “sell by” and “best by” labels. While it is best to follow these strictly, you are unlikely to experience severe negative effects if you consume foods 1-2 days past the date.

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