Food expiration dates: Here's what it all means

By Hank Winchester - Reporter

Sell by. Best by. Best before. Enjoy by. Use by.

What do all of these labels mean? With the exception of baby formula, there are no federal regulations on date labeling and most date labels aren't based on exact science.

Manufactures generally apply date labels at their own discretion. Often the "Best if used by," "Sell by," and "Use by" designations are their best guesses about how long their food will taste its freshest.

The manager of food safety research at Consumer Reports says the best way to know whether a perishable food has spoiled is to rely on your taste buds and sense of smell. And there are resources available online for consumers with questions about how long to keep perishable -- including meat, seafood, and dairy.

The FoodKeeper app helps you know hot store food for maximized freshness and quality. All you have to do is click the area you're questioning, such as condiments. Ketchup can be kept in your pantry for up to a year and only 6 months in the fridge after opening it.

The FDA also has a freezer storage chart that helps you keep your freezer organized and up to date.

More help: www.consumerreports.org/food

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