You’re not alone if you’ve stood in your kitchen holding a container of milk or a package of chicken breasts and weren’t sure whether you should toss them or eat them. That’s because it’s not always so obvious what the difference is between the various expiration dates—from “sell by” to “best if used by.”

Federal law does not require food dating in most cases, but 20 states do have laws about dates. In many cases, manufacturers add dates voluntarily. Perishable foods such as meat, poultry, eggs and dairy usually get dates. But they’re not always about spoilage; some simply inform retailers when products are at their best for freshness, taste and texture.

Check out the slideshow above to learn how long food in the fridge lasts and what common expiration labels mean. Also, to clear up the confusion and help you avoid consuming tainted foods that can make you sick, we've decoded common expiration dates in this handy chart. Pin it and pass it on to educate your friends about food safety!

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