What Do Food Expiration Dates Really Mean?

— Written By Sue Estridge
en Español

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You’ve probably found yourself in the kitchen or at the grocery store mulling over the various dates listed on many food products. You know, those best-before dates, sell-by dates, born-on dates, use-by dates and so on.

But what do these dates actually mean? Do I have to dump the 11 eggs I haven’t touched yet? Is my food safe?

At ease, soldier, we have your answers.

These various food packaging dates are often established by the food manufacturers in relation to product quality, not necessarily the safety of the product that’s being consumed. However, food label dates can have different implications for different products (e.g., milk, cheese, raw meat, sauces and soups, fresh produce, and even infant formula).

Watch our food safety specialist, Ben Chapman at NC State Extension, dish out facts that will help you decipher those food date labels and the ramifications on food safety and quality.

Find more resources on NC State Extension’s Food Safety Portal.

Special thanks to the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina, a nonprofit organization that has provided food for people at risk of hunger for more than 35 years, for their time and support of Homegrown.

More Food for Thought

Grass-fed, all natural, no antibiotics, organic…what does it all mean? See for yourself in our meat labels series.