Why ‘Sell By’, ‘Use By’, & ‘Best Before’ dates Matter

When playing the ‘is the still good?’ game with your food and also its shelf life, it’s reasonably easy to run to your own conclusions about what ‘Sell by’, ‘Use by’, and also ‘Best if provided by’ mean. Because that example, one may fear that lock will acquire sick and drop dead if eating something after the ‘use by’ date, yet not feeling the same fears around the specific same product if it had actually the same date on it, but was instead stamped through ‘sell by’.

You are watching: How long is ham good for after the sell by date

But what does each pointer really mean? and is it really for sure to eat the food ~ the usage or offer by days versus throwing that away?

Food garbage is a large Problem

Why does it matter? Americans space tossing the end at least $161 exchange rate in food each year. The median American household throws far 40% of your food. In terms of money, that’s hundreds annually in meats, fruit, vegetables and grain products.

That’s a the majority of money and a the majority of waste. Cut this garbage would conserve you money, lower overall food prices, and lead come a far-reaching reduction in carbon influence and other environmental damage. And also knowing what shelf-life days mean is the an initial step in cutting food waste.

Lax federal Regulation top top Food Shelf-Life Dating

Believe it or not, food dating is only required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food safety & Inspection organization (FSIS) in the United states for baby child formula and some infant foods, in the form of a ‘use by’ date. Other than that, over there is no uniform food shelf life date system. Food dating, at some level, is compelled by 20 states. However, numerous states have no food dating regulations in ~ all.

That doesn’t typical that over there aren’t some consistencies and also rules that you need to follow approximately food shelf life.

Use by Date, or “Shelf Life”

A ‘use by date’ is the product manufacturers recommended day to use the product in order come still obtain peak quality. After that date, the product quality could decline, and if ideal storage measures aren’t used, your health might be in ~ risk.


Many manufacturers voluntarily include ‘use by’ dates since they desire their customers to endure their food at its highest quality, in bespeak to flourish customer loyalty. They additionally serve as a ‘we told friend so’ warning if girlfriend consume the food or drink after ~ the date and it has actually gone bad.

It is usually recommended the you usage a product through its ‘use by’ date. However, products can be retained for much longer periods if refrigerated below 40 levels F or frozen.

Best if offered By/Best prior to Date

‘Best if offered by’, aka ‘best before’ days are recommended use days as determined by the manufacturer to acquire the greatest quality version of the product, but are no aligned come food safety dates as ‘use by’ and ‘sell by’ days are.

Sell by Date

‘Sell by’ dates are plan to offer as a pointer for grocers to sell the manufacturers products. Foodstuffs with expired offer by days can quiet be in ~ their best quality and safe to eat if stored properly. However, together a consumer, it can be wise to buy inventory at your grocer that has actually a more out ‘sell by’ date versus one that has already expired.

There might additionally be an chance to bargain with grocers to acquire a reduced price on foods items that are at or past their ‘sell by’ date. Countless grocers instantly mark down foods that space approaching the ‘sell by’ date, and also it never damages to asking those who carry out not for a discount.

Sell By storage Guidelines

Here are some FSIS Guidelines for refrigerated commodities sell by dates. FSIS recommends the you follow ‘use by’ dates, and also recommends freezing or food preparation the fresh foodstuffs by the adhering to timelines:

FoodTypeRefrigerator(40 °F or below)Freezer(0 °F or below)SaladHot dogsLuncheon meatBacon and also sausageHamburger and other soil meatsFresh beef, veal, lamb, and also porkHamFresh PoultryEggsSoups & StewsLeftovers
Egg, chicken, ham, tuna and macaroni salads3 come 4 daysDoes not freeze well
Opened package1 week1 to 2 months
Unopened package2 weeks1 to 2 months
Opened parcel or deli sliced3 to 5 days1 to 2 months
Unopened package2 weeks1 to 2 months
Bacon1 week1 month
Sausage, raw, indigenous chicken, turkey, pork, or beef1 to 2 days1 come 2 months
Sausage, totally cooked, indigenous chicken, turkey, pork, or beef1 week1 come 2 months
Hamburger, floor beef, turkey, veal, pork, lamb, and mixtures of them1 to 2 days3 come 4 months
Steaks3 to 5 days4 come 12 months
Chops3 to 5 days4 come 12 months
Roasts3 to 5 days4 come 12 months
Fresh, uncured, uncooked3 to 5 days6 months
Fresh, uncured, cooked3 to 4 days3 come 4 months
Cured, cook-before-eating or uncooked5 come 7 job or “use by” date3 come 4 months
Fully-cooked, vacuum-sealed at plant, unopened“Use by” date1 come 2 months
Cooked, store-wrapped, whole1 week1 come 2 months
Cooked, store-wrapped, slices, half, or spiral cut3 to 4 days1 come 2 months
Country ham, cooked1 week1 month
Canned, labeled “Keep Refrigerated,” unopened6 to 9 monthsDo no freeze
Canned, shelf-stable, opened

Note: an unopened, shelf-stable, canned ham have the right to be stored at room temperature for 6-9 months.

See more: How Many Valence Electrons Does A Neutral Atom Of Silicon Have? ?

5 come 14 days1 come 2 months
Prosciutto, Parma or Serrano ham, dry Italian or Spanish type, cut2 to 3 months1 month
Chicken or turkey, whole1 come 2 days1 year
Chicken or turkey, pieces1 come 2 days9 months
Raw egg in shell3 come 5 weeksDo not freeze. Beat yolks and whites together, climate freeze.
Raw egg whites and yolks Note: yolks carry out not freeze well2 come 4 days12 months
Raw egg accidentally frozen in shellUse instantly after thawingKeep frozen, thenrefrigerate come thaw
Hard-cooked eggs1 weekDo no freeze
Egg substitutes, liquidUnopened1 weekDo not freeze
Egg substitutes, liquidOpened3 daysDo no freeze
Egg substitutes, frozen, unopenedAfter thawing, 1 week or refer to “use by” date12 months
Egg substitutes, frozen, openedAfter cooking, 3 come 4 work or refer to “use by” dateDo not freeze
Casseroles with eggs3 to 4 daysAfter baking, 2 come 3 months
Eggnog, commercial3 to 5 days6 months
Eggnog, homemade2 come 4 daysDo no freeze
Pies: Pumpkin or pecan3 come 4 daysAfter baking, 1 come 2 months
Pies: Custard and chiffon3 to 4 daysDo no freeze
Quiche with filling3 to 5 daysAfter baking, 2 come 3 months
Vegetable or meat added3 to 4 days2 come 3 months
Cooked meat or poultry3 come 4 days2 to 6 months
Chicken nuggets or patties3 come 4 days1 come 3 months
Pizza3 come 4 days1 come 2 months

Using usual Sense on Shelf-Life

These room some good guidelines, however it also pays to usage some usual sense guidelines around food expiration:

If you’re not going come eat something with a few days, just freeze it.If it smells bad, don’t eat it.If the looks bad, don’t eat it.If it has actually mold ~ above it, don’t eat it.If the is perishable, at the very least refrigerate it.Perishable food doesn’t favor air. Keep things covered and sealed.Wash your hands prior to touching perishable foods

Shelf Life Discussion:

What rules carry out you follow around shelf life?Do you ever bargain v grocers if a food is in ~ or has passed the ‘sell by’ date. What kind of an answer do you get?

Related Posts: