Supermarket Guru Phil Lempert, who’s also the Food Editor at NBC’s Today Show, wrote a great piece today on MSNBC.com about how to decipher the sell-by dates on food. As Phil points out, it’s confusing to say the least, but here’s his main takeaway:
Expiration date: The most important to observe. If you haven’t used the product by this date, toss it out.
Sell-by or pull-by date: This date is designed to help retailers know when to remove product from the shelves, but there is generally still time left on the product.
Best-if-used-by and use-by date: The emphasis with this designation is on the word best. All it means is that the product should retain maximum freshness, flavor and texture if used by this date. It is not a purchase-by or food safety date.
Guaranteed fresh: This date is often used for perishable baked goods.
Pack date: This is the date the item was packed, most used on canned and boxed goods. It is usually in the form of an encrypted code not easy to decipher.