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Understanding Food ‘Sell By’ Dates


Have you ever gone to your refrigerator to get a glass of milk or yogurt only to find the ‘sell by’ date printed on the carton has passed? Is it still OK to eat it?According to a 2010 study from and Harris Interactive, 76 percent of American consumers believe certain foods are not safe to eat after the date printed on the package has passed.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates 29 million tons of food is wasted each year because people throwaway food too soon – costing Americans an estimated $700 million annually.

The ‘sell by’ is for store managers to know when a product should be removed from the shelves. Though shoppers should pick up products that have not reached the ‘sell by,’ that date listed on packages are created with the anticipation that the food will be consumed after the printed date.

Before you throw out things you thing have gone bad, consider these helpful food safety tips for


When properly stored, eggs can last at least three to five weeks after the printed ‘sell by’ date. In general if it looks or smells funny, you probably shouldn’t eat it – so crack open the egg and let your nose do the work.


The smell test may not work for mayonnaise, but generally you can have mayonnaise on hand for months. According to ShelfLife, unopened Kraft mayo can be kept for 30 days after the expiration date or three to four months after opening.


If properly refrigerated, milk can last for at least a week after the ‘sell by’ date. ShelfLife, says the milk may even be good after a week but as time passes you lose nutritional value and taste.

Cottage Cheese

Thanks to pasteurization, protective packaging and preservatives that prevent mold, cottage cheese can still be eaten 10 to 14 days after the date printed on the carton.


You can keep yogurt for seven to 10 days after its ‘sell by’ date. Yogurt can still be eaten after the 10 days but it will likely have a stronger taste and the bacterial cultures, which act as preservatives, will start to die off.

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