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10 things to know about dates on food

 Keep or pitch? That's the question everyone faces when cleaning out a refrigerator or a pantry.

The date on the product is usually the determining factor if it stays or goes. But those dates are one of the biggest reasons that 30-40 percent of food in the United States is thrown away even though it is still safe to consume.

The dates printed on food are for quality purposes, not safety. Read that again - quality, not safety.

Here are 10 things to know about the dates on food.

1. Except for infant formula, dates are not an indicator of food safety.

2. Dates on food are not federal law, except for infant formula.

3. At least 30 percent of the U.S. food supply is lost or wasted because of confusion over what the dates on food products mean.

4. Best by date means if the product is used by that date, it will be at its peak freshness. It can still be safely consumed after that date.

5. Use-by date refers to the last date the product is guaranteed to be at its peak quality.

6. Freeze-by date indicates when a product should be frozen to maintain its peak quality.

7. Sell-by date is used as inventory management for the store. Again, it is safe to consume food after this date.

8. Codes/dates on cans are used by manufacturers to rotate inventory and locate products in the event of a recall.

9. Cans should be discarded if rusted, swollen, or dented on the rim or seams.

10. The best way to know if food is safe to eat is by checking the odor, flavor, and texture.

Midwest Food Bank is committed to safely and responsibly gathering food from manufacturers and retailers and getting it to people that need it. This means that at least some of that 30-40 percent of food doesn't end up in landfills. In rescuing dated food items, MFB is providing sustainable solutions in living out our mission. Be part of a sustainable solution and donate to Midwest Food Bank. For every $1 donated, you will rescue $30 of food that would otherwise go to a landfill.

Note, for more information about food safety, go to And remember - quality, not safety. 

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