TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Many of us err on the on the side of caution when it comes to food poisoning and that means, a lot of good food gets thrown away for fear of being tainted. The 2017 Shawnee County Food is wasted every year, in Shawnee County alone.

“The place where most of food gets wasted, is right in our own homes,” said Missty Lechner with the American Heart Association.

A lot of wasted food comes from not understanding what expiration dates, best by dates, and use by dates actually mean, and when you should actual be throwing foods out.

“The dates that are on foods are dated according to manufacturer recommendation. There’s really no legal requirement from the manufacturers to use any kind of dating except on infant formula,” said Lisa Martin, with K-State Research & Extension Office of Shawnee County.

So here’s a breakdown of the different dates and what they mean.SELL BY Date

Martin said if it has a sell by date that is the last date that the food can be sold at the grocery store. And so you want to make sure you buy that food before the sell by date and that will also kind of give you an idea too of how old the product is.BEST BY DATE

“If someone said best if used by date on a package, that means the quality is good on the package around that date and even past that date as long as you handle it properly,” said Martin.

Handling food properly is key to its longevity and safety.

“With bacteria that makes you sick you don’t smell it- it may look perfectly fine and then can still make you sick.  It still comes back to you want to wash your hands when you’re preparing food, you want to keep your counters clean, you want to wash your dishes. When you’re cooking food you want to separate raw foods like meat and poultry from fresh things that you may be eating and then you want to cook it to the proper endpoint temperature and then it needs to get into refrigerator or freezer within two hours of cooking,” said Martin.

When in doubt the smell, taste, and sight test is always a good option too.

Lisa said if its spoiled, if there is spoilage microorganisms in there you’re going to see molds, slime, or it’s not going to smell good.

“Or like with crackers that fat is going to rancid and you’re going to smell it.”

Canned goods are typically acceptable past the expiration date, as long as they’re stored in a cool dry place and there’s no dents or damage to the cans. You can also eliminate food waste by re-using items before they go bad, by putting it in the freezer or using items in leftovers.