Food Product Dating

Dates are printed on many food products. After the date expires, must you discard that food? In most cases, no. A calendar date may be stamped on a product’s package to help the store determine how long to display the product for sale. It is not a safety date.

Product dating is not required by law. Calendar dates are found primarily on perishable foods such as dairy products, eggs, meat and poultry. Coded dates might appear on shelf stable products such as cans and boxes of food.

There are several types of dates:

  • “Sell-by” date – tell the store how long to display the product for sale. You should buy the product before the expire date.
  • “Best Before” – recommended for best flavour or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
  • “Use-By” – the last date recommended for use of the product while at peak quality. The date has been determined by the manufacturer of the product.
  • “Closed or Coded Dates” – packing numbers for use by the manufacturer in tracking their products. This enables manufacturers to rotate their stock as well as locate their product in the event of a recall.


Do not use infant formula and baby food past its “use-by” date.