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Best by, sell by and use by — what do they mean?

22 October 2019

Ohio State University

Spoiled milk? Your nose knows better than your eyes.

When it comes to pasteurized milk, it’s safe to drink after its “sell by” date on the jug. Yet the majority of consumers are fooled into draining it out because of confusion over date labeling, according to research from The Ohio State University.

Date labels are put on products by the food industry to ensure quality, which is different from safety, explained Brian Roe, who leads the Ohio State Food Waste Collaborative. “Best by” and “sell by” indicate time periods for quality and inventory purposes, while “use by” refers to safety.

“How do you know when milk is unsafe to drink?” Roe said. “If it smells bad to you, don’t drink it. In some cultures, curdled milk is acceptable to drink, and it doesn’t make people ill.”

 

For more Food & Agriculture Insights from The Ohio State University, click here

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