(WHTM) — Grocery stores have many different ways food is packaged, but they also have many ways to show when foods will expire or not be good enough to eat anymore. Some say “use by” others say “sell by”. So, what is the difference between the terms?

According to the University of Connecticut (UConn), food dating is not required by federal law. The only exception to this is infant formula and some baby food. For all other foods, except for dairy products in some states, dating is up to the manufacturer.

UConn says that stores are also not legally obligated to remove outdated products from their shelves. This means that consumers should always check the packaging to make sure what they are buying is the freshest.

There are a few terms that consumers should be aware of when it comes to food dating. Some of these terms can be confusing. Here are some common terms you may see while shopping for food.

  • Expiration date: If the food has this phrase on it, UConn says that this is absolute, meaning you should throw out the food.
  • Use by or Best-Used By date: This is a suggestion on when the food should be used to ensure the best quality. It generally is safe to consume food that is past this date, but the quality may suffer. These phrases are mostly found on canned goods, dry goods, and other shelf-stable items. According to UConn, the FDA is supporting the food industry’s effort to standardize its use.
  • Sell-by date: UConn says that this phrase can be seen in many fresh or prepared foods. Items with this phrase are generally safe for consumption after this date. But the food may lose flavor and eye appeal. UConn says that these days are chosen with the assumption that the consumer will eat the product within a few days of its purchase.

UConn offers some tips for certain foods that can be consumed after their expiration date:

  • Milk is generally good a week after its sell-by date
  • Eggs are generally good and can keep in your fridge between three and five days beyond the sell-by date.
  • Fresh chicken, turkey, and ground meats should be cooked or frozen within two days
  • Fresh beef, pork, and lamb should be cooked or frozen within three to five days.

Use your nose and eyes to determine if food is good or not. If you feel like it is going bad, don’t take the risk and do not eat it.