Kathy Keene
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Thu, August 30, 2012

Expiration Dates: Should you Pay Attention?

Food Labels can be confusing.  Here's what  you really need to know.

*  Use-By, Best if Used By, Best By, Best Before:  These dates are found on shelf-stable products like mustard, mayonnaise and peanut butter.  They are voluntarily provided by the manufacturer and tells  you  how long the product is likely to remain at its absolute best quality when unopened. It is not a safety date.  After the "use by" or "best" date has passed, you may start to notice gradual changes in the unopened product's texture, color or flavor.  As long as  you've been storing it properly,  you can consume it beyond this date.

*  Sell-By:  Most sell-by dates are found on perishables like meat, seafood, poultry and milk.  You should buy the product before the sell-by date expires.  You can still store it for some time beyond that date as long as you follow safe storage procedures.  Milk that has been continuously refrigerated will remain drinkable about one week after the sell-by date.

*  Expires On:  This type of date is on infant formula and some baby foods and should always be used b efore this date has passed.

*  Packing Codes:  These codes appear as a series of letters and/or numbers and help manufacturers and grocers rotate stock and quickly locate products in the event of a recall.  They are not meant to be interpreted as an indicator of either food safety or quality.

For more information on how to store products, google Keep It or Toss it database.

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