What is "Best If Used By"?
"Best If Used By" is the recommended phrase for dated products to inform consumers when the flavor or quality will be at its best. As directed by the USDA, "Manufacturers provide dating to help consumers and retailers decide when food is of best quality. Except for infant formula, dates are not an indicator of the product's safety and are not required by Federal law."
There are many other possible wordings such as "Best If Used Before", "Sell By", "Use By", which are all used interchangeably. Generally, none of these are product safety dates. For most products consumers buy, there is no product safety date. However, product "best by" dates are often confusingly referred to as an "expiration date", or "shelf life".
Why does this confusion matter?
The big issue being confronted here is food waste. A tremendous amount of food is thrown away because consumers think a package date is intended to be a product safety expiration date.
In 2016, the USDA began recommending use of the phrase "Best If Used By" on any packaging quality dates. Although quality dates are not required on packages, if a product includes one, the phrase should be consistent. This should prevent consumers from expecting a difference between any of those wordings.
True Primal pouches use the "Best If Used By" wording, to discourage food waste. We encourage all food producers to do the same.
But being consistent on the use of "Best If Used By" is just the first step. Perhaps more important is informing consumers that "Best If Used By" is a recommendation on product flavor and quality, and is not a safety/expiration date. If you can, please help spread the word on what "Best If Used By" really means!
What is the "best if used by" time frame for True Primal soups?
For all of our soups, we're currently putting a "Best If Used By" date of at least 12 months from pouch production. Again, note this date is chosen based on flavor. Over time it seems like the delicate aromatics in the onion/garlic may be the first to mellow out and lose their flavor. After about a year of storage, it seems like there's a slight reduction of those two flavors, but most of the flavors hold up well. We may adjust these flavor assessments over time. (Currently we're using 18 months on the Beef & Vegetable Organic Soup, Beef & Mushroom Organic Soup, and Savory Wedding Organic Soup. It's likely all our recipes will be moved to at least 18 months eventually, based on flavor assessment feedback.)
For questions on judging product safety, and more information on "best if used by", see the USDA recommendations on product dating and food safety.