Use By Dates

Many people think the food is bad if past its use-by date. Not necessarily.

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service tells us that use-by dates are set by manufacturers, not the government, and are only estimates of when the food is of best quality.

“…even if the date expires during home storage, a product should be safe, wholesome and of good quality — if handled properly and kept at 40° F or below.” (Food Safety and Inspection Service’s “Food Product Dating” fact sheet of August 9, 2013)

Here is more on actual shelf life: 

Southwest Virginia Second Harvest Food Band Membership Handbook, July 2007: 

ProductEstimated Shelf Life
past the stamped date
Discard if:
Cans and Bottles1 to several yearsBulging or leaking or severe dents
Cereals and Crackers6 months to 2 yearsStale or insects present
Freezer products3 months to several yearsOff odor or taste
PastaSeveral yearsInsects or mold present or stale
Refrigerated juices/tea1 to 4 weeksMold present or off odor or taste
Dry riceSeveral yearsInsects or mold present
Yogurt1 to 3 weeksMold present or off odor or taste



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