Food Safety Issues/Use By Date


Hi Carol,

I recently read a question you answered in regards to canned chicken and past date.  You said that that "best by date" is not for safety and rather quality.  I have a can that states "USE BY 4-21-12" and wonder if this is also safe. It is not a "best by date" or "sell by date", so I just want to be sure. Thank you in advance!


Hi Shelli,

There is no uniformity in wordage from manufacturer to manufacturer so "Use-by," "Sell-by," and "Best if used by" all have the same meaning.  These dates are placed on the can to help grocery stores to rotate their stock and to guarantee maximum quality if used by the date indicated.  It does not imply safety as canned good can remain safe to consume for many, many years.

Now granted, a very old can - while safe to consume - may not be of the highest quality with flavor, color and texture changes.  But if the can is still in the same condition as when purchased it is safe to consume.


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Carol Schlitt


I can answer questions on home food safety, sanitation and home food preservation.


I am a former Extension educator, nutrition, wellness and food safety, having retired August 1, 2010. I am a food safety instructor for the Illinois Department of Public Health, a ServSafe Instructor/Proctor and have my own company, Safe & Savory Solutions, Inc -

National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (Past President and current Historian), St. Louis Culinary Society.

BS - University of Illinois MS - Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville

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