Don't Throw It Out Yet! When Does Food Really Expire?

Sell-By dates—just how important are they? INSIDE EDITION reports on what you need to know about Sell-By dates before you throw away food.

When does the food you buy at the supermarket really go bad? If you think it's the Sell-By date, stamped on the package, think again.

To find out more, INSIDE EDITION went shopping with dietitian Karen Ansel.

Ansel says Sell-By dates are not really meant for consumers. "A lot of people think that they are expiration dates, but they are not.  What they really are is they're just dates that tell the store how long to display the food in terms of freshness. They have nothing to do with how safe it is," she explains.

Believe it or not, with the exception of baby formula, there are no official federal expiration dates for food. But, most people don't know that, leading the average American family to waste $1,500 a year throwing away food that's still perfectly safe to eat.

Ansel comments, "They throw away so much money, it's a small fortune and they don't need to do it."

So how long is your food safe to eat past the sell-by date? For milk, it's three to five days. But, its wise to use your nose.

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"With milk, when it's fresh it doesn't have any smell at all. But if that milk is bad, you are going to smell it right away," said Ansel.

Eggs are good for an incredible three to five weeks past the date on the carton. So, Ansel says buy in bulk: "So you have a dozen eggs here, but you could buy 18 and save a load of money and they could be just as good for just as long," advises Ansel.

Ansel says bread is safe to eat for a lot longer than you might think, You can even ignore the sell-by date as long as you freeze it. "Just put it in the freezer and it will stay good for up to six months," advises the dietitian.

However, Ansel says meat is another story entirely, You do need to follow the Sell-By date.

"You don't want to buy meat that's been on the store shelf past the Sell-By date and that's because meat is really, really perishable and meat can also contain bacteria," informs Ansel.

Ground beef will stay safe in the fridge for one or two days. Steak, three to five days.

But, pop it in your freezer and meat can stay good for four months.

Ansel says with her tips, consumers can save a lot of food and money.

One final word of caution: Experts say "when in doubt, toss it out". For more information on when foods are safe to eat go to