Best by, sell by, use by : Planet Money Wait, wait...don't throw that out! What if much of what you've been told about food expiration dates is... wrong? | Subscribe to Planet Money+ in Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/planetmoney.

Best by, sell by, use by

Best by, sell by, use by

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WASHINGTON - AUGUST 20: A customer scans the expiration date on gallons of milk sitting on a cooler shelf at a Safeway grocery store August 20, 2007 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images hide caption

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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

WASHINGTON - AUGUST 20: A customer scans the expiration date on gallons of milk sitting on a cooler shelf at a Safeway grocery store August 20, 2007 in Washington, DC.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The dates stamped on our groceries have a lot of power. They convince us that our food is fresh and safe to be consumed.

But for food dates there's more myth than truth. Except for baby formula, there's no central authority or federal regulation that enforces national standards for food date labeling. So a sell-by date that might force a gallon of milk off of the shelf in one state could be considered completely safe to consume in another for several more days.

In this episode, we travel to a state with one of the strictest labeling requirements in America in search of the truth about how our food is labeled, and who gets to decide that food is no longer safe. And yes, it did involve drinking milk out of the trash.

Music: Show Me the Way & Light the Fire Up

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