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VERIFY: Is it safe to eat food items after its 'best if used by' listed date?

After an online claim that a DC Safeway is selling expired meat, we found out what the difference is between those food date labels, 'sell by' and 'use by.'

WASHINGTON -- A social media post claims a Safeway store in Northwest D.C. was selling expired meat with a "best if used by" date of May 22 on the packaging even though the photo captured the item on shelves on May 26. 

Credit: Popvillle.com

So are those chicken kabobs really expired and unsafe to eat?

To get answers, Verify researchers reached out to experts from the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

The FDA 's most recent survey of U.S consumers knowledge on product date labels for packaged foods, showed that less than half knew the difference between "Sell By," "Use By," and "Best If Used By".

Confusion over different date labeling terms has led to about 20 percent of food waste in homes.

The USDA helped clear up that “best if used by date,” which, by the way, is what they suggest for meat, poultry and eggs.

The agency encourages food manufacturers and retailers to use the "best if used by" phrase as a quality-based date label -- when foods do not show signs of spoilage and are still considered to be wholesome. Those products may be sold, purchased, donated and consumed beyond the labeled date. 

The FDA says they hope the use of the phrase will help reduce food waste, when consumers associate quality dates with how long a product will retain its freshness.

And if stored properly, that food can still taste good after that listed date. 

So, to summarize, here is the difference between the three:

BEST IF USED BY -- indicate to consumers the date up to which the product will be at its optimal quality and flavor, but foods not showing signs of spoilage should still be wholesome and may be eaten or donated beyond that date.

SELL BY -- The product should not be sold after that date if the buyer is to have it at its best quality

USE BY -- an estimate of how long a product will last for

So we verified this post is false, those kabobs were not expired and it's safe to eat food after the 'best if used by' labeled date. 

For more on from the FDA how to reduce food waste waste, click here.

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