You open the fridge, drag out the cottage cheese, check for fur, and if there isn’t any, you say, “Honey? Will you sniff this?” This is not, however, the approved method of checking for freshness. The approved way lies in a voluntary system of labeling.
Yes, voluntary. The only items required by federal law to be labeled for expiration are infant formula and some baby foods; some states also mandate pulling dairy from store shelves on the expiration date.
Learn the Lingo of Expiration Dates
This brings us to terminology. The actual term “Expiration Date” refers to the last date a food should be eaten or used. Last means last — proceed at your own risk.
Other, more commonly spotted terms are:
- “Sell by” date. The labeling “sell by”
- “Best if used by (or before)”
- “Born on” date
- “Guaranteed fresh”
- “Use by”