Skip to content
Home > Organics > Food Expiration Guidelines
Egg Carton Sell By

Food Expiration Guidelines works best in modern browsers like Firefox, Safari, Chrome, or Internet Explorer 8. All are free to download and will greatly improve your internet experience. Reducing and recycling organic waste is a top priority for Californians and us here in Santa Barbara County. Cutting back on food waste and putting the correct materials in our green containers are important ways to divert waste from the landfill. Learn more about green container programs in your area, backyard composting, food waste reduction, and other ways to reduce or recycle organic waste in this section. Businesses should also get involved!

The dates printed on food products are not always safety guidelines. We have a few tips listed below, but the USDA and NRDC have a wealth of information on their websites describing what expiration dates mean for various food types.

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

Related Materials

Related Articles