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      Toss it or eat it? The truth about food labels

      If you have ever wondered whether the food in your refrigerator is safe to eat based on its "sell by", you're not alone.

      Upwards of 91 percent of consumers have thrown food out based on the dates on packaging, according to an article published by a registered dietitian and wellness manager for the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute.

      The article clears up confusion about labels and expiration dates and whether you should trash food or eat it.

      According to the article, federal law does not require food dating in most cases. In many cases, manufacturers add dates voluntarily. In general, perishable foods like meat, poultry, eggs and dairy get dates, but that's not always when the food spoils. Some are used to inform retailers when the products are at their best for freshness, taste and texture.

      The author provides these tips to follow:

      The label types vary:

      ?The "Sell by" date indicates how long a store should display a product on its shelves. But foods are still flavorful and safe to eat several days after this date if you store them properly.

      ?The "Best if used by" date comes straight from manufacturers. The product will be freshest and have the best taste and texture if you eat it by this date. But this date does not refer to food safety.

      ?The "Use by" date also comes from manufacturers. It's the last date for peak quality. After this date, taste, texture and quality may go downhill, even if food safety does not.

      ?The "Expiration" date is the only packaging date related to food safety. If this date has passed, throw the food out.

      How long will it last?

      Still confused or concerned? Use the following rules of thumb for foods in your fridge or pantry.

      ?Milk is typically safe for two to three days after the "use by" date. Keep it in the back of the fridge, where temperatures are typically coldest.

      ?Butter will keep for two to three weeks after purchase.

      ?Margarine will last for four to six months after purchase.

      ?Eggs are safe for three to five weeks after purchase. Keep them in the back of the fridge, where temperatures are typically coldest, rather than in the door.

      ?Chicken, ground meat and ground poultry will last for one to two days after purchase.

      ?Pre-cooked poultry should keep for three to four days

      ?Fish will last one to two days in the refrigerator after purchase.

      ?Luncheon meat is safe for two to three weeks when it remains unopened. Use within three to four days after opening.

      ?Dry pasta will last for one to two years after purchase.

      ?Canned fruits and vegetables will last indefinitely. However, that rule goes out the window if they're exposed to freezing temperatures or temperatures above 90F. And be wary of damaged, dented or rusty packaging.

      Also, remember that if you freeze something, it will last indefinitely, even if not at peak freshness, taste or texture.

      Above all else, let common sense - and your senses - be your guide. If something smells rotten, curdles or turns a suspicious color, toss it in the trash.

      Do you worry about expiration dates? Which foods concern you the most? Leave your thoughts below.