Do the dates on food packages puzzle you? What about those letters and numbers? If you are confused or puzzled– you are not alone.
There is no uniform or universally accepted system for food dating in the U.S. However, Washington law does require that foods that spoil within 30 days, including milk, cottage cheese, and eggs carry a pull date by which they are to be sold. This sell by date represents the last day to sell the product so you will have time to store and use it at home safely. In addition, some manufacturers choose to add dates on products such as snacks and cookies even though they are not required.
Here are some generally accepted deﬁnitions for food dates that may help you determine how long you want to store foods once you get them home.
- Pull Date
Example: “Sell By January 25”
Foods that use this date: milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, cream, eggs, lunchmeats, packaged salad mixes.
What does the date mean? Stores must remove these products by the date listed. The food will be safe to eat afte this date if it has been refrigerated continually. Milk will usually be edible at least one week longer. Other foods like yogurt or eggs will keep more than one week beyond the date listed. If the food smells or tastes bad (‘off ”) or the seal has been broken, do not use it; otherwise, it is probably safe to eat.