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The difference between 'best by' and 'use by' dates

Posted at 4:27 AM, Mar 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-31 06:49:58-04

We see it nearly every time we go grocery shopping — a "best by" date and often a "use by" date. But do you know what each one means?

FOX 17 spoke with Alan Hartline of Kingma's Market in Grand Rapids, and he explained that the best by date comes from the manufacturer of the product or food item.

It's the date the manufacturer uses to ensure the product's integrity and that the eating experience is best.

The "sell by" date, Hartline explained, comes from the retailer in which you would buy it.

Hartline said the retailer receives guidance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but Kingma's also "self-imposes" their own rules to make sure the eating experience is optimal.

Some people may prefer one store over another based on how far out a store is willing to extend their use by dates, thus possibly compromising freshness.

Hartline said that with such uncertain times, his store is seeing a lot more purchases of canned and frozen items that shoppers can stock up on without the risk of the items going bad.

"A lot of stocking up on canned items that they can hold on to longer and not have to make as frequent trips," Hartline said. "Our frozen pizza section just continues to roll.

"From a butcher standpoint, we have a lot of customers asking for smaller packages. One-pound packages of ground beef. But they want 10 of them, and they're freezing those."

Hartline added that his store's meat is fresh and never frozen so that helps if a customer chooses to freeze it later. It's good to know that would be the first time it is frozen.

We hear from authorities asking us not to hoard during these trying times, and it makes sense.

But for people most vulnerable to the coronavirus, if they can buy a week or maybe 10 days worth of groceries and minimize their public interaction with less frequent shopping trips, the better of they and many others will be.