Best If Used By: Spring Cleaning Your Fridge

May 25, 2021
Best If Used By: Spring Cleaning Your Fridge

Food safety is a major concern. When food is abnormally soft, discolored or moldy, we know to throw it out. Other times it isn’t so obvious, and being too careful can waste food and money. Here are some tips for understanding and using food safety guidelines while spring cleaning your fridge.

Know what the labels on your food mean.

  • According to the FDA, confusion over date labeling accounts for 20% of consumer food waste.
  • “Best if Used By” is a phrase used to mark when the food will have the best flavor and quality. It is not an expiration date.
  • Other phrases you might see that mean the same thing are “Sell by,” “Best by” or “Expires on.”
  • All of these phrases mean you should rely on other factors, like smell, appearance and firmness to determine freshness.

Know the shelf life of common food items.

  • The FDA, the CDC and USDA provide lists of food categories and the shelf-life information for each on
  • Many foods have shorter shelf lives than you think. For example, ground meats expire faster than cuts of meat, like steaks or chicken breast.
  • Others have surprisingly long shelf lives. Honey can last 2 years in a refrigerator, and unopened spaghetti sauce can last in a jar for 18 months.

Know which foods can cause food poisoning and be extra careful when consuming those.

  • Foods that can cause poisoning include:
    • Chicken, beef, pork and turkey, and seafood
    • Fruits, vegetables and sprouts
    • Raw milk and dairy
    • Raw eggs and raw flour

  • Use smell and appearance to tell if something has gone bad.
    • Milk will begin to smell sour, while meats will take on a glassy, slimy and gray appearance.
    • Leafy greens will also smell sour and wilt or turn yellow.
  • As a general rule, if you can’t tell if something is bad, throw it out.

Know the signs of food poisoning and when you should seek medical attention.

  • Food poisoning can be mild or severe.
  • The most common symptoms are upset stomach, cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and fever.
  • If you have bloody diarrhea, a high fever, show signs of dehydration or your symptoms last more than 3 days, visit a doctor.