Food Dating Guideline
Feeding South Florida, the leading domestic hunger-relief organization in South Florida, is working diligently to respond to the COVID-19 crisis and the rapidly evolving and increased food needs of those who are food insecure in South Florida.
Food and grocery products that are donated to Feeding South Florida and all food banks throughout the United States are carefully handled and tracked throughout the distribution process. Dates on food labels are oftentimes confusing. Products may sometimes appear with “sell by,” “use by,” or “best by,” dates, and it can be hard to understand what these terms mean.
Per the United States Department of Agriculture:
- A “Best if Used By/Before” date indicates when a product will be of best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
- A “Sell-By” date tells the store how long to display the product for sale for inventory management. It is not a safety date.
- A “Use-By” date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. It is not a safety date except for when used on infant formula as described below.
- A “Freeze-By” date indicates when a product should be frozen to maintain peak quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
The reality is, with the exception of baby formula, there are no federal regulations on date labeling. All food received by Feeding South Florida is inspected to ensure that it is safe to eat. Product past the recommended dates on our food sorting guide are discarded. More information about consumer safety is available at this recent article from Consumer Reports: https://www.consumerreports.org/food-safety/how-to-tell-whether-expired-food-is-safe-to-eat/
For the United States Department of Agriculture guidelines, click here.
To view the United States Department of Agriculture guidelines in PDF, click here.
To view Feeding South Florida’ Food Sorting Guide, click here.