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Is This Safe to Eat?

The dates on the packages usually refer to quality, not food safety.
Credit: goodluz - stock.adobe.com

WEST COLUMBIA, S.C. — With grocery prices on the rise, most of us are trying to stretch our grocery budget. That may include keeping items in the refrigerator, freezer and cupboards a little longer. But is that safe? Learning a little more about food labels can help ensure we are getting the most from our grocery budget.

Most shelf stable foods are safe for years, though the quality may be impacted. The dates on the packages usually refer to quality, not food safety. Here's what you need to know to be a savvy shopper.

Except for baby formulas, product dates are not expiration dates.  

The “Sell By” date are what the stores uses to determine when to sell an item by.  It is not a food safety date, but is directed to the retailer to let the store how long it has been sitting on the shelf for inventory purposes.  

The “Best By" or "Best Before” date are used to indicate the date the product will have its best flavor or quality.

The “Use By” date is when the product is at highest quality.

The “Freeze By” date is the date the product should be frozen by to maintain top quality.

The “Opening Date” is a calendar date that helps retailers know the length of display. It can also provide the consumer information on when to purchase or use the product for best quality. This dates is usually found on perishable foods like meat and dairy products.

The “Closing Date” is a series of production numbers that the manufacturer uses to indicate when a product was made. It is found on shelf-stable products like cans and boxes.  

Eggs can last 3-5 weeks from the day they are put in the refrigerator, It is best to store them in coldest part of the refrigerator.

Freeze beef, veal, pork or lamb within 3 - 5 days of purchase.

Fresh chicken, turkey, ground meat should be cooked within 1 - 2 days of purchase or frozen.

Smell or changes in texture (lumpy and/or bumpy) and color are the best ways to determine if something has spoiled. It is best not to taste food to determine if it has spoiled because tit does not much to make us sick. Even a small taste has enough bacteria to make us sick.  

If you are concerned or have questions, the FoodKeeper App from FoodSafety.gov. is a great resource if you need more information on how long specific products are safe to consume.  

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