Clark Howard: Food Expiration Guide


Food Expiration Guide

by Consumer Reports

“Use By,” “Best if Used By,” or “Quality Assurance” – The last date the product is likely to be at peak flavor and quality. Often placed on foods such as cereal. It doesn’t mean the food is unsafe after that date.

“Sell By,” or “pull” – An indication, to the retailer, of the last day on which a product should be sold. It takes into account time for the food to be stored and used at home. You should be able to use milk, for example, for up to about seven days after the sell-by date.

“Expiration” – For most foods, this is the last date on which they should be eaten or used. Eggs are an exception. You should be able to use them safely for the next three to five weeks.

“Born on” – Initiated by Anheuser-Busch, its beer is freshest within 110 days from the born-on date.

Other foodwise info – As a rule, high-acid canned foods like tomatoes can be stored on shelves for 12 to 18 months. Properly stored low-acid canned foods like meat, fish and most vegetables will keep two to five years. But don’t use a can that is bulging. If perishable foods are packaged and frozen properly, they will be safe to eat after the expiration date, although the food may suffer freezer burn if it’s stored for a long time.