According to the Institute of Food Technologists, confusion over date labeling is a major cause of food waste each year. Know the difference between your labels!
Use-By: Aimed at consumers, this is the date by which the product should be eaten, mostly because of quality. After the use-by date, product quality is likely to go down quickly, and safety may be reduced.
Sell-By: Aimed at retailers, this date tells them how long to display the product for sale. It does not mean the product is unsafe to consume after the date; typically, one-third of a product’s life remains after the sell-by date for consumers to use at home.
Best-By: Aimed at consumers to suggest the date by which a product should be consumed to assure ideal quality.
Product dates can be confusing, and often aren’t the best guide for the safe use of a product, suggests the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service. So how long can you refrigerate food and still use it safely? If product has a “use-by” date, follow that, they suggest. But if a product has a “sell-by” date or no date at all, cook or freeze it based on the following chart: