La­bel Date Terms

EatingWell - - FRESH -

Con­fu­sion over phrases like “use by” and “sell by” causes a tremen­dous amount of waste—in part be­cause there are no stan­dard­ized def­i­ni­tions for them. (See “A Fu­ture with Less Waste” on page 106 for more on this.) Know­ing what these la­bels re­ally mean could set your mind at ease and save you a whole lot of food.

Sell by: This la­bel is meant for the re­tailer, not you. It lets the folks who stock the gro­cery store shelves know that a prod­uct shouldn’t be sold af­ter that date to en­sure peak qual­ity, and it gives con­sumers time—usu­ally about a week, de­pend­ing on the item—to eat it once they bring it home. It’s not an in­di­ca­tion of food safety.

Best by, or Best be­fore: Terms like these in­di­cate the food com­pany’s best guess as to how long the prod­uct will keep at its peak qual­ity. They don’t have any­thing to do with safety.

Use by: OK, this one is con­fus­ing. Both the FDA and USDA say that, like “best by,” the phrase “use by” has to do with qual­ity, and isn’t re­lated to safety ex­cept for in­fant for­mula. How­ever, new guide­lines from the Gro­cery Man­u­fac­tur­ers As­so­ci­a­tion (GMA) and Food Mar­ket­ing In­sti­tute (FMI) de­fine “use by” as a hard cut­off date—af­ter which the prod­uct may not be

safe. Be­cause these con­flict­ing rec­om­men­da­tions are vol­un­tary, there’s no way to know whether that bag of baby spinach car­ries the FDA’S def­i­ni­tion of “use by” (it’s OK to eat af­ter that date) or GMA’S/FMI’S (it’s not).

What’s not on the la­bel that you should

know: No mat­ter what phrase you see, ex­perts say not to freak out and au­to­mat­i­cally toss a food be­cause it’s ap­proach­ing or just over the la­bel date. Use your best judg­ment. Eye­ball it. Give it a sniff. If it doesn’t look spoiled, have an off odor and has been stored prop­erly it’s prob­a­bly fine. A few ex­cep­tions: If you’re preg­nant or have a com­pro­mised im­mune sys­tem it’s not worth the risk. Also, deli meat, un­cooked hot dogs, un­pas­teur­ized milk, soft cheeses, raw sprouts, mel­ons and smoked seafood can har­bor Lis­te­ria— bac­te­ria you can’t see or smell—even at fridge tem­per­a­tures. Don’t take any chances with those.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.