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Package Dates

Question: I don't understand what the dates on packages mean. Will I get sick if I eat the food after the "sell by" date?
Package Dates

Photo courtesy of http://flic.kr/p/7HghSP.

Food product dates can be confusing.  No one can afford to throw away food that is still safe and tasty, so consider the meanings of the dates.

Sell-by date

Stores should pull items from the shelves if they are not sold by this date. The food is still good for a while if stored properly at home.

Note: Be sure to write the date of purchase on the foods you buy and arrange your cupboards “first in, first out.” In other words, place the “oldest” foods in the front so you use them first.

Use-by date

Food is guaranteed to be at high quality until this date. Although the foods are still safe to consume after the date, these items may have lower quality.

Expiration date

Consume food or beverage by this date or throw it.


Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist, NDSU Extension Service

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