How to Read Food Expiration Dates

The food labels are getting extremely confusing nowadays! When you check a product, you will notice a lot of food expiration dates and information but no specific explanation regarding what they mean.

Display until”, ”use by”, ”sell by” or ”best before” are just a few examples of information that you don’t really know how to process. And let’s face it! Most people don’t know either.

Food expiration date

We all want to eat healthy food and we wouldn’t risk purchasing expired products just because we didn’t know how to properly read the labels.

But don’t worry! In the following, we will take them one by one and we will explain what each of them means.

This way, you will never buy spoiled food again and you will avoid having a discussion with the grocery shop owner for selling your expired products.


This information is for the store’s employees only and it’s not related to the quality or freshness of the product. The “Sell-By” number will help the staff know how long a certain item can be displayed on the store’s shelf.

However, you should check this date as well. If the product is past its “Sell-by” date, then it probably shouldn’t be on the shelf at all, so why risk buying it.


This date is not the food expiration date but it indicates when the item will start deteriorating and losing its nutritional values.

Even though the product will still be edible after that date, it won’t have the same qualities and it won’t taste like a fresh product anymore.

Still, you should be extremely cautioned at the “Use-by” date when purchasing infant formulas or medicinal food supplements.

These products are extremely volatile and will start to lose their properties after that date, making them unsafe for consumption. They are not necessarily bad, but I wouldn’t risk it.

Best by/Best before

This is the first information (along with the price) that every customer checks before deciding to buy a product. If the product is past its “Best before” date, then it must be expired, right? Well, not exactly!

The “Best before” dates on grocery refer to the quality and freshness, but it doesn’t indicate the safety of the item.

So what would happen if you would eat a product a few days past its “Best before” date? Probably nothing, but then again, I wouldn’t risk it and I wouldn’t want to buy a product that is no longer fresh.

Coded/Closed dates

You can find these long alphanumeric codes on every product (food-related or not) and when you see it…you just ignore it. The code is used by the vendor, in order to track the product when it’s being shipped.

Be careful about what you eat!

Just because a food product is on the shelf, don’t automatically assume that it’s safe to eat. Make sure to always check the grocery labels and be extra cautious at the food expiration dates.

Always check food expiration dates to be informed and avoid purchasing an expired product just because it’s cheaper.

Your health is the most precious thing that you own and you wouldn’t want to risk that just so you could save a few bucks.