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Sidebar: What Do the Dates Mean?
Kansas Ag Connection - 12/05/2017

Consumers may sometimes get confused about the dates that are on food products.

Those dates are included primarily for food quality reasons, according to food safety specialist Karen Blakeslee, coordinator of the Rapid Response Center in Kansas State University's Department of Animal Sciences and Industry.

"Pay close attention to perishable foods, such as raw meat, eggs, or dairy products," Blakeslee says. "Those kinds of foods have a short shelf life, and they have a date on the package. You can go maybe 2-3 days after, but especially with meats, you want to adhere to those dates."

Here are general guidelines on dates commonly found on food products:

- The "Sell By" date tells the store how long to display the product for inventory management. It is not a safety date.

- The "Use By" date is the last date recommended for eating the product at its peak quality. You may be able to safely eat the food product after this date.

- The "Best if Used By" date indicates when the food will be of its best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.

Blakeslee says in some cases, consumers should use their best judgment about whether a food is safe after the date indicated on the packaging. If the color, smell or appearance has changed, it could be due bacterial growth.

When in doubt, throw it out.

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