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food can with the "best before" product date shown on the top

Food Label Dates: Basics for the consumer

We’ve started 2020. When you roll over the calendar, it’s a good reminder to roll through your food pantry.

Have you looked at your pantry lately? Does it contain cans from 2010? Did you know you had a can of artichokes hiding in the back that you paid a lot for at the store? Where do you start? And, oh, by the way, what do all those food product dates mean?

Why date a food product anyways? Well, manufacturers provide dating to help us know, as consumers, when they consider the product is of best quality. But, many times, we want to look beyond just the quality of the food and focus on its safety. We all want to consume foods that taste good, but also we want to know that the food is safe to eat. Product dating also signals to retailers that they need to remove items from their shelves.

But with so much terminology like “Best before,” “Use by,” or “Better if used by or before,” what should we pay attention to?

In this four-part series, we are going to look at the terminology manufacturers use to date our foods and why some of those dates are important. Other posts will discuss: what food product dates mean; a closer look at egg expiration dates; and general information and pantry organization. Find all posts in this series at https://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/sarasotaco/tag/foodlabeldates/.

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