Use by? Best by? As consumers overstock fridges, here are tips about food expiration dates

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- With households buying extra food during the coronavirus pandemic, more concerns may be raised about how long all those extra items in your fridge may last.

It's relatively easy to see when produce has spoiled. But it's a little more difficult with other foods, so we tend to look for expiration dates for help.

Although the government would like all food manufacturers to use the term "Best if used by," currently consumers see "Use by," "Sell by," even "enjoy by," which can be confusing.

According to the USDA, food expiration dates refer to food quality - not safety - with baby food the only product requiring an expiration date.

The "use by" date refers to the final day the product will be at its best in terms of flavor, texture and freshness, although it may still be edible after that.

Most likely the biggest food fight in households is about the "sell by" date.

Quite simply, the manufacturer isn't talking to you. Rather to the grocer, to either sell the product by that date or remove it from the shelf.

How to hedge against spoilage if you've stocked up?

Know this: You can freeze meats, dairy and cheese, although hard cheese will thaw crumbly. You can also freeze eggs if you have removed them from the shell.

Leftovers can be frozen immediately or consumed within three days.

Patricia Greenberg, the Fitness Gourmet stocked up on turkey and chicken. Like most, she worried about using it after three days in the fridge.

She took cooked chicken, some previously sautéed veggies, and added a leftover jar of pasta sauce for a makeshift casserole.

Another reminder: When it comes to fresh produce like a head of lettuce, she suggested removing outer leaves and giving the greens a water rinse to perk them back up.

With overbuying there is a tendency for food waste, so it is time to get creative in the kitchen.
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