Special Report: Sell By - Use By Dates At The Grocery Store

By Peter Neumann
By Linda Jackson

November 4, 2010 Updated Nov 4, 2010 at 5:22 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) - When you reach for that gallon of milk or bag of salad, do you look for the date with as much lasting power as possible?

Justine Johnson says, "If it's something like meat or dairy products, I will look at the date."

Anne Shull says, "I check them all the time, especially milk."

Grocery shopping attitudes have adapted over the years.

Chris Gomez, Operations Coordinator with Kroger Foods says, "The industry's really changed from the consumer's standpoint. They're coming in more so today for dinner for tonight or tomorrow instead of huge orders.

"We look to see how close something is, and usually if it's closer, maybe it has a better price, and if we're going to use it in the next couple days, we'll go for that price," said Delorean Bacon,

Federal and state governments demand little regulation with the exception of baby formula and baby food. Most times, food product dating is a courtesy by the store with sell by dates for the store's guidance and use by dates for the customer's.

Gomez says, "Once that sell by date is out there, it comes off our shelves immediately."

Here's helpful information from a USDA website.
Storing fresh or uncooked products requires keeping a close eye on the use by date. Most meats' freshness won't last more than a day or so. With eggs, you can count on 3 to 5 weeks in the fridge.

Gomez says, "We want to get the best fresh quality products out there for our customers. The manufacturers do the exact same thing."

When storing processed products, you have more time when they're not opened compared to after opening. Here's a look at things like vacuum-packed dinners, bacon, and lunch meat.
Canned meat can sit on a shelf for a long time, but notice how little time you have, after opening. Non-perishable foods like soups and crackers have a much longer shelf life in the store and in your cabinet. Always pay attention to a product's look and smell.

"I have four grandkids and two daughters, and they all live with me. I gotta make sure they're healthy," says Sheila Brooks.

The best advice?

Gomez says, "When in doubt, throw it out. There's no sense in getting yourself or your family sick."

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