Food packaging labels provide information about when to use the food and how to store it. Reading food labels and following safety instructions will greatly reduce your chance of becoming ill with foodborne illness.
The following guidelines are included on a packaging label.
Sell by: This tells the store how long to display the product. You should not buy the product after this date.
Best if used by: This tells you how long the product keeps its best flavour or quality. This date is not a purchase or safety date.
Use by: This tells you the last date that is recommended for using the product while at peak quality. The manufacturer determines this date.
Printed dates or numbers on labels without an identifier (such as "sell by") generally represent packing numbers used by the manufacturer to track inventory or locate a product. These dates do not indicate freshness or quality of the product.
Instructions you may see include:
Refrigerate after opening.
Keep refrigerated or frozen.
Keep hot foods hot. Refrigerate leftovers immediately or discard.
ByHealthwise Staff Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine Specialist Medical ReviewerW. David Colby IV, MSc, MD, FRCPC - Infectious Disease