Different dates on food products mean different things. Some products may have a “best-if-used-by” date. This date means that the manufacturer recommends using the product by this date for the best flavor or quality. This date is NOT a food safety date. At some point after the “best-if–used-by” date, a product may change very gradually in taste, color, texture, or nutrient content.
But, the product may be wholesome and safe long after that date. You may also see a “sell-by” date on a food product. This means the manufacturer recommends that a store sell the product by that date; this date does not mean the product must be eaten by that date. The “sell-by” date takes into consideration the product will be stored in your home for a period of time before it is used. Therefore, a “sell-by” date would be reached sooner than a “best-if-used-by” date.
These various dating systems do not represent expiration dates, and they do not indicate when it is safe or not safe to eat a product. The exception to this is infant formulas. Infant formula and some baby foods are unique in that they must be used by the “use-by” date that appears on the package.