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Understanding Food Expiration Dates

Did you know that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate food expiration dates? And, several different types of expiration dates appear on food products, which can add to the confusion about how long food is safe to eat. Some commonly used food label dates include:

  • “Sell By” Date: This date indicates how long a food product should be displayed on store shelves.

  • “Use By”/”Best if Used By” Date: Manufacturers use this date to indicate how long a food product will maintain its optimal taste and texture.

  • Expiration Date: This date indicates how long a food product is safe to eat.

Did you Know?

Originally, food labeling emerged as a safety precaution for consumers due to foodborne illness outbreaks in the 1850's. One of the most notable deaths related to food borne illness at this time was the death of President Zachary Taylor after consuming contaminated fruit and milk at a picnic. After this highly publicized death, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) was created in 1862 by President Abraham Lincoln which led to the creation of strict guidelines for food handling and processing. However, it would be 128 years before a recognizable nutritional facts panel was mandated on all food products.

Storing Food in the Refrigerator

When storing food in the refrigerator, it is important to remember that some foods spoil more quickly than others. Here are some general timelines for how long certain popular foods can safely be stored in the fridge.

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