Did you know that food dating isn't really required by federal law except for baby food and formula? Dating is actually up to the manufacturer.
Here's what each date you might find on food means:
Expiration date: Food should be thrown away after this date, as it may no longer be safe to eat.
Use-by or Best-used-by date: This is a suggestion on when the food should be used to ensure the best quality. It generally is safe to consume food that is past this date, but the quality may suffer. These phrases are mostly found on canned goods, dry goods and other shelf-stable items.
Sell-by date: This is when the item should stop being displayed for sale. Items with this phrase are generally safe for consumption after this date, but the food may lose flavor and eye appeal.