Macro expiration date on canned food

Most food products today come with a "best by" date. This is not actually an expiration date, but more like a time in which the contents will be best to consume. It is recommended that you treat the dates as expiration dates for safety and best quality. However, the date format or location can sometimes be confusing or hard to find.

Search through your pantry for canned goods that were not recently purchased. These are generally at the back of the shelf.

Pick up the can and inspect the top and bottom for text printed on the can itself, not the label.

Look for the phrase "best by" in the text.

Find the date after the phrase. The date may also be alone, without the phrase.

Notice the date format used and interpret the "best by" or expiration date accordingly. Most cans list the date in a standard MM/DD/YYYY format, some with or without slashes. Others only list the month and year 12-2008, or Dec/2008.


  • Not finding a date spelled out on the can? The date of manufacture is probably listed in code; visit for information on reading the coded production dates. Then add 2 years to that date of manufacture for an approximate expiration date.

  • If you still have trouble you can call the products manufacturer and try asking them to talk you through the dating code on the can.

  • Much of the information provided in the text is plant information not necessary to finding the date.

  • Some cans only list a year and month. Consider the date to be the first day of the listed month.