Wednesday, May 12, 2004; Page F02
Huzzahs if you've found comprehensible freshness dates on the products in your pantry. Here's a breakdown of what they indicate. You also must take into account the variables (temperature, light, air, etc.) in how the items have been stored:
• Sell-by or pull-by date: How long the product should remain on a seller's shelf. Buy items on or before this date. The product remains edible after this date, however.
• Use-by date: A recommendation from the manufacturer; the product's freshness is guaranteed up to that date. Pantry products with use-by dates may remain useable after this date.
• Expiration date: The last date a product should be sold. Product may be good for quite a while longer, depending on those aforementioned variables.
• Best-by date: Similar to an expiration date; indicates that product quality may decrease after that date. Product may be useable for much longer.
• Pack date: When the item was packaged. This information is the product date code, which is stamped or embossed on the package. The code is a series of letters and/or numbers roughly based on Julian dating that indicate the day, month and/or year. Manufacturers use their own coding systems; call or visit company Web sites to decipher.
"College Cuisine," a general how-to guide by Leila Peltosaari (Tikka Books) (for perishables)www.fsis.usda.gov
www.fmi.orgwww.foodreference.com(see Cans, Shelf Life)
www.emergencykitchen.com(date code decoder list)
www.agrilinkfoods.com(canned fruit and pie fillings)
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