BEST BEFORE MAR 11 2016

Green Beans

These dates refer to quality rather than food safety. It’s the date before which the brand stands by its product (unless it’s been opened or left out in warm temperatures).

Foods with a “best before” or “use by” date should be safe to eat after the date has passed, but they may no longer be at their very best. This is true for “best by,” “best if used by,” “enjoy by,” and other similar expressions.

BEWARE THE DANGER ZONE

Onions

The main criterion for evaluating food safety is the amount of time food spends in the temperature “danger zone” (40 - 120 °F). If you leave food out on the counter or in a hot car, it could be unsafe even before the date on the package, regardless of what phrase you see.

SELL BY JUNE 22 2016

Packaged Fish

You can ignore these dates as they are meant for store staff. They actually build in quality so that if the food is sold by that date, you can still get it home and have top-quality shelf life for some time.

USE YOUR EYES AND NOSE

Moldy Orange

For the most part, you can trust your senses to know when food has gone bad. Milk, yogurt, juice, sauces—they can all be subject to the sniff or taste test. Even meat that looks a little faded or gray is okay to eat. The products to be careful with are those they tell pregnant women to avoid—like deli meats and unpasteurized dairy products—and anything with mold.

FREEZE BY MAY 17 2016

Ugly Mushroom

One good way to extend the life of food beyond its date is to freeze it. It’s like pushing the pause button on your food. Almost anything can be frozen—meat, milk, cheese, eggs, bread, unused pasta sauce. Learn about more tips for freezing specific foods here.