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The difference between 'Use By' and 'Best If Used By' food date labels

If the date is beyond one of these, you need to throw it right out!

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Stores can have products on the shelves that have expired dates and sell them legally.

In North Carolina, it's legal to sell expired food items. The only two items
stores can't sell if expired, are baby formula and over-the-counter drugs.
So, when it comes to dairy, meat, eggs, or any other type of food, it's a matter of buyer beware.

You may not have noticed it, but there are now new food date labels.
There’s “Use By” and “Best If Used By.”

"I'm not sure if it's just the manufacturer saying when they would like you to be using it by, or if that's actually when that would be best by,” said one shopper.

A recent study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior found less than half of consumers surveyed knew that "Best If Used By" meant food quality may deteriorate after that date.

Only about a quarter knew that "Use By" meaning the food is unsafe to eat after that point.

"Despite using the labels frequently, many people didn't understand the labels fully," said one of the study authors, Catherine Turvey.

Experts said if a product is past the "Use By" date - toss it.  

If it's after the "Best If Used By" date but stored appropriately, you can use your senses to determine whether to eat it.


Consumer Reports said in order to keep milk and eggs fresher, for longer, don't store them in the refrigerator door. Their tests have found the door is generally a few degrees warmer than the rest of the shelves, so keep them there instead.