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Will Sell-By Dates Soon Be a Thing of the Past?

Ah, sell-by dates, those little stamps that are supposed to reassure us that the foods we buy aren’t spoiled. Most of us check them regualrly, if not obsessively, and trust that if we stay within their parameters, we can avoid making ourselves sick.

But according to NPR, two of the leading food industry groups would like to see them expire.


The answer is that the sell-by date is not the same as the eat-by date. The sell-by date is important for sellers, but doesn’t really tell buyers when their food will go bad. Consequently a lot of edible food ends up trashed.

For this reason, the USDA prefers the “Best if used by” label to indicate when a food might spoil. And here’s a little list from Grist.org that explains which foods are good past their use-by dates. And when in doubt, use your eyes, your nose and your common sense.