How to know when your Food Quality has actually Expired

Have you ever noticed that the dates that come on food have very little to do with when you should actually stop using the product? Are you confused between the difference between “Use By”, “Best if Used By”, or “Quality Assurance Date?” Don’t worry, most other people are too. Let’s clear up some of the confusion.

The term “expiration” is fairly clear. You should not eat the food item after the expiration date, because it’s likely unsafe to do so. The one exception for this rule is eggs. They are perfectly safe to eat for approximately four weeks after their expiration date.

“Best if Used By,” “Quality Assurance,” and “Use By” are also quite nebulous terms, but they all mean the same thing. The date following any of those words is the last date that the food product will be at its best flavor and quality. Cereal is a good example of a product that contains a “Use By” date. After the best if used by date, the food item is extremely likely to still be safe to eat, however it may taste stale after an extended period of time.

“Pull” or “Sell By” is the last date that a food product should be sold by the grocer. It takes into account the time that a consumer would have the food item at their home while they are working on consuming it. It’s always a better idea to get items with sell by dates that are further in the future if you have a choice, because it’s likely that your food will last much longer. You can use milk for about seven days after the sell by date has passed. The amount of time you can use a product after the sell by date will vary from product to product, but it usually ranges from one to three weeks.

“Born on” is a term that Anhueser-Busch developed for their beers, and a number of other companies have followed suit. Usually beer is at its best taste within 100 days of its born on date.

When it comes to canned food, most high-acid can stay on shelves for twelve to eighteen months. Low acid foods, such as fish, meat, and some vegetables can be used for two to five years if stored properly. If the can is budging, that means it’s infected by some unwanted bacteria and should not be eaten.
Food items that are frozen properly can be used well past the expiration date, however if the food item is in the freezer for a significant period of time, it may suffer from freezer burn and diminish the taste when you finally do thaw it out.