Arbitrary expiration dates are also commonly applied by companies to product coupons, promotional offers and credit cards.
In these contexts, the expiration date is chosen for business reasons or to provide some security function rather than any product safety concern. The legal definition and usage of the term expiration date will vary between countries and products.
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Sometimes the packaging process involves using pre-printed labels, making it impractical to write the best before date in a clearly visible location.
In this case, wording like best before see bottom or best before see lid might be printed on the label and the date marked in a different location as indicated.
Food kept after the best before date will not necessarily be harmful, but may begin to lose its optimum flavour and texture.
Eggs are a special case, since they may contain salmonella which multiplies over time; they should therefore be eaten before the best before date, which is, in the USA, a maximum of 45 days after the eggs are packed.
Best before or best by dates appear on a wide range of frozen, dried, tinned and other foods.
These dates are only advisory and refer to the quality of the product, in contrast with use by dates, which indicate that the product may no longer be safe to consume after the specified date.
Generally, foods that have a use by date written on the packaging must not be eaten after the specified date.
This is because such foods usually go bad quickly and may be injurious to health if spoiled.
With the exception of infant formula, the laws that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) administers do not preclude the sale of food that is past the expiration date indicated on the label.
FDA does not require food firms to place "expired by", "use by" or "best before" dates on food products.
Food that has passed its sell by or display until date, but has not yet reached its use by / best before date will still be edible, assuming it has been stored correctly.