Date labels (e.g. “use-by”, “sell-by”, “best-by”, “best if used by,” “expires on”, etc.) are on a lot of products. Forty-one states require a date label on at least some food product, but there are huge inconsistencies, not just in the wording, but in the meaning of these labels. Some states require them only on dairy, some on shellfish, some on any perishable foods.
It’s become complicated to decipher these dates, or to know how to act on them, for large retailers and individual consumers alike. And despite what many people assume, they are not about food safety, and were actually never meant to be.