Before You Use These Foods, Check The Expiration Date

“Expiration,” “use by,” and “sell by” dates get confusing. On the one hand, people may waste food if they throw it away before it goes bad. On the other hand, expired food could have dangerous amounts of Bacteroides and E. coli, says Dr. Clare Morrison of MedExpress.

To stay safe, you may want to eat or toss some foods before their expiration date. You may be surprised–even condiments, juices, and protein substitutes don’t last long. Keep reading to learn which foods you should eat before or soon after the date on the packaging.

Which Dates Should You Pay Attention To?

Before obeying the printed date, know that all dates–“sell by,” “best by,” and “expiration”– are different. Consumer information specialist Mindy Costello says that “use by” and “expiration” are the strictest dates. Generally, you should eat or throw away your food by this date.

A printed date is seen on the bottom of a coke can.

“Sell by,” dates tell a store how long to display their item, Costello says. Many foods last beyond this point. Meanwhile, “best by” dates suggest how long food lasts if you don’t open it. After you open the package, the food may not last as long.