Decipher Those Dates! Some Clarity about Use by, Best by, Freshness, Pull, Sell By Dates and more. . .
The following is some very good information about dating on food that confuses many. The article linked to below has even more information about food storage and dating, both commercial and home, canned or not. VERY good!
"Deciphering Packaged Food Dates
"Storing Food for Safety and Quality, University of Idaho, PNW 612
"For most foods, product dating is not required by law. An exception is infant formula and some baby foods for which open dating is required. Open dates are calendar dates that are clearly understood by consumers, as opposed to coded dates that are sometimes used by food manufacturers for their own tracking. Infant and baby foods are dated for nutrient retention as well as quality, since these foods often provide the sole source of nutrition. Do not buy or use infant formula or baby food after its “use by” date.
"Many food manufacturers choose to label packaged foods with some type of date. However, there is no universal system for expressing the date. Commonly used date terminology is explained below. These dates are not related to product safety.
"Date of pack or manufacture. Refers to when the food was packed or processed for sale. These are not “use by” dates. Instead, they are printed on canned or boxed goods that are shelf-stable items to identify and locate products if there is a recall.
"Freshness, pull, or “sell by” date. Tells the store how long to display the product for sale. The date allows for home storage and use within a reasonable period of time, as predicted by the manufacturer. The product maybe safely consumed after the sell-by date. Often used on breads, baked goods, and dairy products.
“Use before” or “Best if used by” date. Gives the recommended shelf life for best flavor or quality. The food can be safely used past this date. Often used with frozen foods, fried snack foods such as chips and crackers, cereals, canned foods, pasta and rice.
Expiration date. The last day the product should be used for best quality. Yeast and baking powder have expiration dates.
"Home dating. It is a good practice to mark the date on purchased foods that do not have open dates and that you plan to store for an extended time. Likewise, marking the date on stored home-prepared foods or leftovers is the best way to keep track of stored food. Keep a marker or pen and small self-stick labels handy, and date these foods when you put them into storage." (--this is a good idea to do with any food put in your fridge or freezer--L. Watts)