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Apr 2, 2013 05:23 PM

Confusion with "Sell-by" dates and FDA standards

OK, I bought a chicken roaster about a week and a half ago. I had every good intention of roasting it, but life gave me lemons and they weren't for the slicing.

So I have it, it's two days after the sell-by date. Now most places say you can use it within this period safely, but FDA standards often say that fresh poultry should be used within 2 days of bringing it home. It also says this on the brand's website. "If bought before the sell-by date, use within 2 days."

But I don't get it...isn't it just sitting at the grocery store refrigerated? Why do I have to use it in two days if it's just going to stay in the same conditions at the grocery store until that "sell-by" date?

Also, should I eat this thing?

Sorry if I sound like a total dumdum.

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  1. Have you put your nose to it?

    If the thing smells good, cook it and look back.

    What did you used to do before they started putting dates on your food? LoL j/k

    1. As I've said before here, I use "sell by" and "use by" dates like I do horoscopes.

      For entertainment purposes only.

      1 Reply
      1. re: ipsedixit

        Yes, use your senses. I rarely have ever looked at a sell by or use by date.

      2. It's the USDA-FSIS that publishes the recommendations on handling chicken. The FSIS does recommend using chicken within two days of purchase. The label you quote seems consistent with this.

        The FSIS recommendations are conservative. They probably do not expect refrigeration temperatures to be as closely monitored as they should be in a commercial environment. And chicken is usually not refrigerated in transit from store to home. Also, the "sell-by" dates are not regulated, so can't be factored in by the FSIS.

        They are just recommendations. Keep your chicken properly refrigerated and cook it properly and you should be fine.

        1. Maybe the easiest would be to go back to the term "expiration date"--if I remember, it was the most commonly used expression on perishables some years ago. If you've passed that date, you know it's no good--you can avoid these semantic games with "best before" or "best by" or "use by".

          1. I guess my biggest problem is that I was vegetarian for a really, really long time. I stopped about 8 years ago, but there are some kinds of meats I still haven't cooked (like whole chicken roasts) and I often still feel completely clueless. Honestly, I'm lucky I'm even still alive.

            I smelled it, it smelled OK. But I did some anxiety-inducing internetting and realized that it was a 'better safe than sorry' moment and tossed it.

            It was probably fine, and now I feel wasteful and will have to do some karmic favors to make up for it.

            Wasan - I agree, or they should just say "EAT IT WITHIN 48 HOURS OR FREEZE IT WHEN YOU BRING IT HOME".

            I'm a fan of clarity.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Crankyrobot

              I was vegetarian for over 10yrs (vegan for a few of those) and I too, have not been able to bring myself to make a roast chicken. I've just started making boneless skinless chicken breasts.. Baby steps.

              1. re: Crankyrobot

                "... They should just say ..."

                That is what the FSIS recommends. I don't see what the confusion is about. It's perfectly clear to me.

                1. re: GH1618

                  Right, but I'm talking about the package. The package is what is not clear.

                  1. re: Crankyrobot

                    The FSIS recommendations for handling chicken are a couple of pages long. It is not reasonable to expect chicken packers to put everything you need to know on the label. Commodity food does not generally come with onstructions. The most efficient way to disseminate the information is through the FSIS, and nowadays you can easily print their recommendations and add them to your kitchen handbook.