Food - Drink
The Frustrating Truth Behind 'Sell By,' 'Use By,' And 'Best By' Food Labels
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has extensive guidelines covering everything from product names and descriptions to nutritional labels. However, date stamps and labels, including "sell by, "use by," and "best by" dates, are not regulated by the FDA and are instead up to individual manufacturers, making these labels hard to understand.
Food products sold in the U.S. can have two "dating" labels: "closed dating," a code of letters and/or numbers that identify the date and time of production, and "open dating," which gives retailers a time frame in which they should sell the product, and tells buyers how long the product will remain at peak quality.
"Sell by" and "use by/best by" dates are types of open dating: "sell by" dates tell stores how long a product should be kept in stock, while "best by" or "use by" dates tell consumers how long a product will be at its highest quality. "Best by/use by" dates are not expiration dates; past these dates, products are still safe to consume, but will not be at their best.