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Food Expiration Guidelines

Reducing organic waste is a top priority for Californians and us here in Santa Barbara County. Cutting back on food waste and putting yard trimmings into our green bins are great ways to divert waste from the landfill. Find out more about yard waste recycling, composting, food waste reduction, and other ways to reduce organic waste in this section.

The dates printed on food products are not always safety guidelines. Here's a quick low-down on the different types of dates you'll find on food items:

Best By, Best Before, or Best if Used By

Found on shelf-stable products like peanut butter or mustard. These dates are provided voluntarily by the manufacturer and tell consumers how long a product is likely to maintain its absolute best flavor and quality when unopened.

Use By

This is the final date that a manufacturer vouches for a product's quality.

Food Forward Milk Use By

Sell By

Found on perishable items like eggs, meat, and dairy products. This date tells stores how long they can display a product. If consumers buy the product before this date, they can still store it beyond the date if they follow safe storage procedures.

Expires On

Found on infant formula and baby foods. Consumers should use these products before the expiration date has passed.

Find additional information on reducing food waste in our Food Forward booklet.

You can also download a new "FoodKeeper" app from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help you maximize the storage life of food and beverages at home.

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