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Thursday, 25 October 2012 19:25

FOOD SAFETY TIPS: How to Read Dates on Fresh Food

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     Manufacturers use a variety of terminology to describe freshness and also expiry. By understanding what these terms mean, you can get the best foods in terms of freshness and quality.

     This brings us to terminology. The actual term "Expiration Date" refers to the last date a food should be eaten or used. Last means last -- proceed at your own risk.

Other, more commonly spotted terms are:

  • "Sell by" date. The labeling "sell by" tells the store how long to display the product for sale. You should buy the product before the date expires. This is basically a guide for the retailer, so the store knows when to pull the item. This is not mandatory, so reach in back and get the freshest. The issue is quality of the item (freshness, taste, and consistency) rather than whether it is on the verge of spoiling. The "sell by" date is the last day the item is at its highest level of quality, but it will still be edible for some time after.
  • "Best if used by (or before)" date. This refers strictly to quality, not safety. This date is recommended for best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date. Sour cream, for instance, is already sour, but can have a zippier, fresh taste when freshly sour.
  • "Packed on" date: This date may be used for fresh meat products to tell consumers when the meat was packaged.
  • "Guaranteed fresh" date. This usually refers to bakery items. They will still be edible after the date, but will not be at peak freshness.
  • "Use by" date. This is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. The date has been determined by the manufacturer of the product.


     Dates can be month-day-year-MMDDYY, which is commonly practiced in the Philippines.  In Europe, codes are day-month-year-DD-MM-YY.  The manufacturer could also revert to the Julian calendar. January would then be 001-0031 and December 334-365. It is very important to know how to properly interpret the date codes. 

     All these date stamps assume the foods have been handled properly during transportation, while in the store, and in your home. If the foods have been subject to poor handling, they will spoil much faster. Discard any foods that have developed an off odor, flavor or appearance due to bacterial growth, no matter what its expiry date, to avoid foodborne illness.

Read 10900 times Last modified on Saturday, 16 February 2013 09:26

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