I wanted to explain product dating codes for this week’s article. Many people believe they need to throw out canned and boxed food items once it is past the date on the label. Food manufacturers use different date codes to ensure that consumers receive their product at peak quality.
There are four ways products are code dated: 1. “Sell-by” date – tells the store how long to display the product for sale; 2. “Best if Used By (or Before)” – recommended for best flavor or quality. This is not a purchase or safety date; 3. “Use By” - the last date recommended for use of the product while at peak quality. The manufacturer of the product has determined the date; and 4. “Exp. (or Expires)” – this is a true expiration date. The food is not safe to eat and must be thrown away.
Once a product is past the code date, many manufacturers and local grocery stores donate the food products to food banks. In our area, this would be Second Harvest Food Bank. Food Banks then provide food items to their member Pantries. Whitehall-Coplay Hunger Initiative (WCHI) is a member Pantry and does receive the majority of our food items from Second Harvest.
Now, let’s discuss how long food is good to eat with these dates.
Very important - All baby food and formula must be thrown out by the expiration date. There is no nutritional value after this date. Second Harvest and WCHI monitors these dates and our pantry guests do not receive outdated baby food. Baby food recipients need to monitor these dates when the baby food is in your home pantry.
You will find this section interesting. There are pages of food items and shelf life after coded dates. I selected shelf stable products most people purchase or receive from WCHI’s food distributions.
I hope you found this article interesting and informative. The source of this information is from Food Share Venture County Food Bank and was given to me by Second Harvest Food Bank. Both are members of Feeding America. I pulled out highlights from seven pages of their “Shelf Life after Coded Dates” article, which also includes refrigerated, frozen, and fresh produce along with many other shelf stable food items.