One of the most confusing things in the foodservice and food handling world involves sell-by dates and best-by dates. Are they the same thing? Do they really matter? What are you supposed to do with that date information?
Even if such information isn’t covered in a Texas food handlers card course, it can be worth learning about it so that you have a complete understanding of what food packaging dates mean in your line of work.
What Is a Sell-By Date?
A sell-by date is a label that tends to be aimed at retailers and food sellers. It’s not when the food is no longer fit for consumption but, instead, when a retailer should take action to sell the product before it’s no longer at its best.
When a food item gets close to its sell-by date, retailers often decide to run a special or use the product in their deli section so that it can be turned into something else and sold faster. Consumers should also not be concerned that the sell-by date relates to an increased risk of food poisoning or when they should eat their food by.
Food quality and taste can often deteriorate, but food reaching its sell-by date tends to last at least a third of its life after that date has been reached.
What Is a Best-By Date?
While a sell-by date is a helpful timeframe for a retailer, consumers should be aware of a product’s best-by date before purchasing food. This tells you when food may start to lose some of its flavor or quality but tends to still be safe to eat for at least a few days past this point.
Of course, those dates won’t apply if food hasn’t been stored as recommended by the manufacturer. For example, a bottle of milk won’t be safe to drink up until to its best-by date when you have left it out in the sunshine for a day.
What Is an Expiry Date?
Familiarizing yourself with expiry dates is of the utmost importance in the food handling and service industry. Serving food past its used-by date may put yourself and your customers at risk of foodborne illnesses.
An expiry date is printed onto food packaging and outlines the maximum timeframe food should be consumed within. Past that date, the manufacturer can’t guarantee its nutritional composition and quality.
Restaurants should never attempt to sell food pasts its used-by date, which is why appropriate labeling and storage should be prioritized in pantries, fridges, and freezers.
When Do None of These Dates Apply?
When you get to grips with all the different dates applying to retailers, suppliers, and customers, you might think that all food within these date ranges is safe to consume. However, there will be situations where sell-by, best-by, and expiry dates don’t apply.
Typically, any time food has not been stored in the appropriate place at the best temperature is when it should be treated as expired and discarded. Some of these situations may fall into this category:
- A recall has been issued on a food product
- It has been left in the fridge past the recommended timeframe
- It has been left in the freezer past the recommended timeframe
- It has been opened and stored incorrectly
- The packaging has been damaged
Learn More About Food Safety With TABC Pronto
When you’re entering a hospitality business in Texas, enroll for your food handlers permit. There can be a lot to learn about keeping your patrons safe in the food industry, and an online food handlers course can provide much of what you need to hit the ground running.