Are you gearing up for the impending change of season by doing a little sprucing up around your home? Good for you! Don't forget one of the most important tasks this time of year: Cleaning your standard-issue Michigan garage refrigerator to make room for football drinks and snacks.

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But do you really need to throw that 1/2 gallon of milk away? The eggs that are a week past their sell-by date? How about the can of corn on top of the fridge that was 'best-by' over a year ago? What are the chances if you eat a food that is past its 'sell' or 'use-by' that you will instantly fall over and die?

The Difference Between Michigan's 'Best-by', 'Sell-by', and 'Use-by' Dates


Did you know that there are no Federal regulations that require products, other than baby formula, to display expiration or related dates? That's right, the dates on those products are voluntary but, that still doesn't explain why there are 3 different terms used on varying items. So what's the difference?

  • Best if Used By/Before: This is not a 'safe to consume by' date. This is more of a 'eat this before then for it to taste the best'. Eating most products after the 'best-by' date doesn't mean it is bad, it's just not at its peak flavor.
  • Sell-by: Also not a safety date, this is the last day that the retailer is allowed to display the product on shelves.
  • Use-by: AGAIN, NOT A SAFETY DATE. This date represents the last day to, once again, enjoy the product at its highest quality.
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So are there any true, hard, and fast, rules on if when it's safe to eat a food past its 'date'? Here's what the USDA has to say on the subject:

Spoiled foods will develop an off odor, flavor or texture due to naturally occurring spoilage bacteria. If a food has developed such spoilage characteristics, it should not be eaten.


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The translation: If it looks good and smells good, it might taste good Michigan. So grab a garbage bag, or a spork, and take on the task of cleaning your garage fridge. Good luck cleaning that Great Lakes State fridge.

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