Eat this!!! Product expires…


Ever wonder what the different labels on packaging mean for expiration dates?  Like when I go to the store and buy eggs it says “Sell By Apr 10 2009” do I have to eat it by that date or is it okay to use it after the date as well?  Or you may be looking at items in your fridge or cupboard and wondering if they are good to eat because the date on the package?  I get asked about food expiration because chocolate packaging has product dating.  So let’s look at the guidelines together (brought to us by the USDA Food and Safety Inspection Service).

Product Dating
Use By:  the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality, which has been determined by the product manufacturer.  Follow the date on the packaging for expirations.

Best If Used By (Before):  recommended for best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date –> products can be used after the date .  When handled and stored properly, items should be safe and good quality.

Sell By:  this tells the store how long to display an item.  Purchase before the date expires.  Depending on the item (fresh v. processed), items can be used after the date.  See below:  

 

Refrigerator Home Storage (at 40 °F or below) of Fresh or Uncooked Products
If product has a “use-by” date, follow that date.
If product has a “sell-by” date or no date, cook or freeze the product by the times on the following chart:

 

Storage of Fresh or Uncooked Products

Product

Storage Times After Purchase

Poultry; Sausage (Pork, Beef or Turkey)

1 or 2 days

Beef, Veal, Pork and Lamb

3 to 5 days

Ground Meat and Ground Poultry

1 or 2 days

Fresh Variety Meats (Liver, Tongue, Brain, Kidneys, Heart, Chitterlings)

1 or 2 days

Cured Ham, Cook-Before-Eating

5 to 7 days

Eggs

3 to 5 weeks

 
Refrigerator Home Storage (at 40 °F or below) of Processed Products Sealed at Plant
If product has a “use-by” date, follow that date.
If product has a “sell-by” or no date, cook or freeze the product by the times on the following chart:

 

Storage of Processed Products Sealed at Plant

Processed Product

Unopened, After Purchase

After Opening

Cooked Poultry

3 to 4 days

3 to 4 days

Cooked Sausage

3 to 4 days

3 to 4 days

Sausage, Hard/Dry, shelf-stable

6 weeks/pantry

3 weeks

Corned Beef, uncooked, in pouch with pickling juices

5 to 7 days

3 to 4 days

Vacuum-packed Dinners, Commercial Brand with USDA seal

2 weeks

3 to 4 days

Bacon

2 weeks

7 days

Hot dogs

2 weeks

1 week

Luncheon meat

2 weeks

3 to 5 days

Ham, fully cooked

7 days

slices, 3 days; whole, 7 days

Ham, canned, labeled “keep refrigerated”

9 months

3 to 4 days

Ham, canned, shelf stable

2 years/pantry

3 to 5 days

Canned Meat and Poultry, shelf stable

2 to 5 years/pantry

3 to 4 days

 
Since chocolate does not need to be refrigerated, it is safe to eat chocolate after the “Best By” date on the packaging.  The only chocolate that goes in the trash at my house is the stuff that I can’t even imagine sharing.  Otherwise it is eaten, used in recipes or offered for tasting.

Going back to the eggs, the USDA chart says it is safe to store them 3-5 weeks after purchase.  Phew!  Normally I just hope for the best, but now I have a better sense of the date I need to use the eggs.

Let me know if this clears up the questions about package expirations.  It definitely helped me!

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One Response to Eat this!!! Product expires…

  1. Pingback: Spring Cleaning | The Quest for Incredible Chocolate

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