USDA: Stop Throwing Away Food That's Past The 'Sell By' Date

By NewsRadio 1020 KDKA

WASHINGTON (Newsradio 1020 KDKA) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture is reminding people that a “sell-by” date is not an expiration date.

The USDA says it’s a date that grocers use to know how long they can display a product for sale.

Except for infant formula, dates on products are not required by the federal government and labels can consist of two types, “Open Dating” and “Closed Dating”.

The “sell-by” date is ------ a safety or expiration date - it’s actually a date grocers use to know how long to display the product for sale.Tips on product dating

— Dept. of Agriculture (@USDA) June 11, 2020

Open dating is put on the product by the manufacturer or retailer and gives consumers an estimated period of time the product will be of best quality.

Closed Dating is applied by a manufacturer to mark the date and time of the product’s production.

Dates do not indicate the product's safety and not required by law. That includes meat, poultry and egg products under the jurisdiction of the Food Safety and Inspection Service.

The USDA explains the following phrases you may see on your food packaging”

  • A "Best if Used By/Before" date indicates when a product will be of best flavor or quality.  It is not a purchase or safety date.
  • A "Sell-By" date tells the store how long to display the product for sale for inventory management.  It is not a safety date. 
  • A “Use-By" date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. It is not a safety date except for when used on infant formula as described below.
  • A “Freeze-By” date indicates when a product should be frozen to maintain peak quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.

The USDA urges that products that are past the date on the label,  doesn’t mean it is unsafe to eat.

Most food is safe to eat past the date as long as it is handled properly and not spoiled.

Signed of spoilage include, an “off odor, flavor or texture due to naturally occurring spoilage bacteria. If a food has developed such spoilage characteristics, it should not be eaten.”

The USDA estimates that 30 percent of the nation’s food supply is thrown away prematurely.


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