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Should You Toss That Food? 3 Facts About Sell-by Dates

August 30, 2016


We’ve all been there: You pour a bowl of cereal and take the carton of milk out of the fridge, only to notice the sell-by date was two days before. What do you do? Is the milk still safe to consume?

Unfortunately, the answer isn’t a straightforward yes or no. But there are a few important things about sell-by dates you should know—and chances are, you’re throwing away food that’s still perfectly fine to eat.

3 Fast Facts About Sell-By Dates

1. They’re meant for stores—not consumers

A food sell-by date is meant to help stores know how long to display a product on their shelves. They aren’t federally regulated and generally have very little to do with whether a product is safe to consume.

2. Manufacturers set them

The same goes for best-by and use-by dates: They’re all set by manufacturers to let stores know when products will be at their peak quality.

3. Some foods can last weeks—or even months

Not only are many foods still safe to eat a few days after their sell-by date, many are still good weeks or even months later.

6 Foods With a Longer Shelf Life Than You’d Think

Think twice before you throw out these commonly wasted foods—they might still be perfectly safe.

1. Milk

Go ahead and enjoy your cereal: Milk can still be safe to drink for up to a week after the sell-by date. However, use your best judgment and don’t drink milk that smells “off” or has yellowed in color.

2. Eggs

Go by your purchase date instead of a sell-by date. Fresh and raw eggs are usually good for three to five weeks after you bring them home.

3. Parmesan Cheese

If you’ve bought parmesan cheese that is commercially grated and packaged, it’s good for up to three months after the sell-by date.

4. Butter

Whether your butter has been opened or is still sealed, it can still last for a solid month after purchasing. However, you can always store extra sticks in the freezer for an even longer shelf life.

5. Yogurt

Assuming your yogurt hasn’t grown any mold, it should be safe to eat for up to 10 days past the sell-by date.

6. Sealed bacon and hot dogs

As long as you haven’t opened your package of bacon or hot dogs, you can still safely enjoy them for a week after their sell-by date.

Of course, it’s always best to use your judgment when consuming food that may be close to expiration—and it’s never worth risking illness if you aren’t sure. However, use the above list as a guideline to help avoid food waste and get more bang for your grocery buck.

Need recipe ideas for food before it goes bad? Check out our free, downloadable cookbooks!

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