Guidance for Consumers:
Dates on Dressing and Sauce Products
Most dressing and sauce products have a date printed on the label, cap or container, which provides guidance to consumers regarding the freshness of the product. Product dating is not required by federal regulations except on infant formula and baby foods. Consumers should contact the food manufacturer with questions regarding the dates and proper storage of specific products. Generally, the dates on dressing and sauce products may appear in one of the forms listed below:
- “Best If Used By” Date – consumers should use the product by this date to ensure the best quality or flavor. It is not a “sell by” or food safety date.
- “Use By” Date – the last date recommended for use of the product while it is at peak quality. This date is recommended for best flavor or quality. It does not represent the “sell by” or food safety date.
- “Best When Purchased By” Date – the product should be either purchased by the consumer or removed from the store shelf by this date. It is recommended that the product be consumed by this date or shortly thereafter to ensure the product is at peak freshness and quality.
- “Sell-by” Date – the last date the product should be sold to the consumer. It guides the rotation of shelf stock and allows time for the product to be stored and used at home. This date is quality driven, not a food safety concern.
- “Expiration” Date – the last date a food should be eaten or used.
Additional information can be accessed via the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Web site: www.fsis.usda.gov/OA/pubs/dating.htm. Further information regarding a specific product may available via the manufacturer’s Web site or consumer information telephone number. This information may be found on the back label of some products.