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Use By and Sell By Dates: What They Mean to Consumers

Sell By Date

As you walk the aisles of a grocery store, nearly every food item you pick up will have either a use by or sell by date. These dates let you as a consumer know when to use an item or when it needs to be sold from the store with the hope that you will heed to the provided date.

Dr. Jean Weese, a food scientist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, who specializes in food safety, preparation and preservation, explained the meaning of the dates and what they should mean to consumers.

“The only two foods required to have a sell by date on them are baby food and milk,” said Weese.

Weese explained that companies put dates on most of their other foods as a courtesy to their customers. While the dates are a courtesy, companies do extensive shelf-life testing to determine what date should be placed on specific foods. The companies also tend to err on the side of caution with their dates to make sure that consumers stay safe.

There is a difference between the use by and sell by dates. Weese, who is also a professor in Poultry Science at Auburn University, said that the sell by date is aimed at getting food out of the store by a specific date, while the use by date is aimed at consuming a food before the quality degrades.

Use by dates are most important for foods that are considered dangerous and could spread disease, such as meat, milk and eggs. Other foods, such as frozen and canned foods will hold longer than the use by date, but the quality of the food will decrease.

The preservation process is what keeps canned and frozen foods safe. Additives such as vitamin C or cream of tartar help to preserve food and keep it safe for consumption. Although on labels you won’t find these additives listed as vitamin C or cream of tartar, you will find their chemical name.

“For some reason instead of using common names on food labels, the government requires companies to use the chemical name,” said Weese. “For example, instead of putting vitamin C the company has to put ascorbic acid.”

Weese said that the use of chemical names can deter consumers from buying and using some products, but that most of the preservatives are common additives that are harmless. The additives simply help foods hold a longer shelf life.

Many foods can outlive their shelf life, but the quality of the product will decrease. The foods to keep in mind in respect to their use by date are foods that are considered hazardous, such as meat or eggs, because they can allow dangerous bacteria to grow.

Article By: Layla Lambert, Extension Daily

For more on sell by dates and safe food storage, see ACES publication HE-0471, Better-Safe-Than-Sorry Food Storage Charts.

The Importance of Sun Safety: The Life You Save May Be Your Own

sun screen lotion
The arrival of summer means that many people will be spending long days at the lake, beach or pool. Sunny days are the perfect time to be active and soak up some vitamin D, but be sure to protect your skin and prevent painful sunburn and skin damage.

There are two types of ultraviolet rays associated with sun exposure: UVA and UVB. UVA rays are less intense than UVB but are prevalent throughout the day. They penetrate the skin more deeply than UVB and contribute to skin aging and wrinkling. UVB rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and cause damage to the skin’s superficial layers, causing sunburn.

To protect your skin from these harmful rays, always wear a UVA/UVB sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher. Wear long-sleeved clothing with hat and UV protective sunglasses, and take breaks in the shade during peak hours. If there is no shade, create your own by using an umbrella.

“Remember to slip, slap, slop,” says Sallie Hooker, an Alabama Extension regional agent. “Slip on a long-sleeve shirt, slap on a hat and sunglasses, and slop on sunscreen.”

One common misconception is that skin is not damaged unless you have a sunburn. The truth is that a tan is a sign of damaged skin. Doctors especially caution against the use of indoor tanning beds to achieve a base tan or year-round glow. According to a study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), people who use tanning beds have a 15 percent higher risk of developing melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer. People who first use a tanning bed before age 35 are 75 percent more likely to develop melanoma.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, one out of five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Most skin cancer is caused by UV radiation or tanning beds, and there are certain factors that can increase your risk. These include a history of sunburn, moles, fair skin, a weakened immune system and family history.

There are three types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. To detect possible skin cancer, look for the ABCDEs: asymmetry, border, color, diameter and any moles that are evolving. The good news is that treatments for skin cancer are highly effective when it is caught early, so see a dermatologist if you have any concerns.

By using simple safe practices in the sun, you can reduce your risk and have healthy, glowing skin for a lifetime.


By Elyse Wiser, Extension Daily

Extension PREPing Others for Employment

job application

When competing for employment, preparation is key to make sure you stand out among other applicants. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System is helping people do just that through its Promoting Readiness for Employment Possibilities employment preparation program.

According to the Alabama Department of Labor, in February 2015, the civilian labor force totaled 2,111,624. This number combines all Alabama residents ages 16 and older who identify themselves as either employed, unemployed or seeking employment.

While these numbers may seem overwhelming, Alabama Extension understands the simple truth that prior preparation prevents poor performance.

Promoting Readiness for Employment Possibilities (PREP) is an initiative created under Extension’s Urban Affairs and New Nontraditional Programs unit. The program is designed to equip participants with information to effectively increase their chances of acquiring a job.

The PREP program is designed for adults and high school seniors who are entering the workforce. The ultimate goal is to make sure participants are prepared to be their best self and are ready to be employed upon the completion of the program.

Building resumes, completing job applications, interview skills and professional image are the four areas in the PREP toolkit. The toolkit was developed by the Financial Literacy Across the Lifespan Strategic Program Initiative Team of Alabama Extension and includes interactive materials and take-away products that reinforce the concepts presented in the program.

Heidi Tilenius, county Extension coordinator for Lauderdale County, is one of several agents presenting the PREP program to those interested in expanding their knowledge of what employers are looking for in new hires.

Tilenius, who has been with Extension since July 2013, connects well with the program. Prior to her Extension work, she spent four years working with students at the University of North Alabama (UNA) in career planning and helping get students ready to enter the workforce upon graduation.

“The PREP program is key because people have to be employed,” said Tilenius. “You have to have income to be able to provide for your family.”

Tilenius believes self-awareness and networking is necessary throughout the employment search. She encourages people beginning their employment search to create a list of 50 people they know and where each of these people work.

“You have to know what skills you can provide and how those fit into what the employer is looking for,” said Tilenius. “Your fastest trip to your next job is the network of people you have.”

PREParing a Job Application

Tilenius noted that when filling out a job application, it is important to fill out the entire application. It is important to be able to show an employer that you can follow instructions, and the first way you can do that is by completing the job application fully.

“The employer is looking through hundreds of applications,” said Tilenius. “They’ll scan right past yours if you can’t follow simple directions.”

PREParing Your Resume

When it comes to resumes, it is critical to remember it is not a one-size-fits-all document. Your resume is the place where you can show how what you have contributed to previous positions can be applied to the available employment opportunities.

Looking at the job description for the position is crucial when constructing your resume. It is very common for companies using an applicant tracking system to scan through applications and resumes to find the best fit.

“Take the job description and construct your resume based on what the employer is looking for,” said Tilenius. “The better you can match up in the applicant tracking system, the higher your chances of being called in for an interview.”

PREParing for an Interview

The PREP program’s toolkit provides a list of questions applicants should be able to answer in an interview situation. The program encourages participants not only to look over the questions, but also to take time to write out the answers to the questions.

“When you are in an interview and you freeze up, chances are you will remember the thoughts you took the time to write down,” said Tilenius. “Preparation is the key word when it comes to interviews.”

PREParing Your Personal Appearance

Although there are several varying opinions when it comes to the appropriate dress for interviews, Tilenius believes that there is never an excuse to not be neat and clean.

“You want to dress for the next level up,” said Tilenius. “It is a good idea to make sure your clothes are ironed and pressed. You aren’t owed a job, so make sure you show the company that you respect them, and will be able to represent them well in any position.”

At the end of the day, the PREP program is working hard to put Alabamians to work. And thanks to Tilenius, and other regional agents, Alabama Extension is succeeding in making employment for many a reality across the state.

By: Valerie Cashin, Extension Daily

Eat Healthy, Be Active Community Workshops

pic1 Valerie Conner

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System, in partnership with Autauga Missionary Baptist District Association and Autauga County Commission, hosted Eat Healthy, Be Active Community Workshops at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Prattville. Adults from area rural churches attended one-hour weekly sessions. Each workshop offered basic nutrition, hands-on learning, and cooking demonstrations to promote healthy changes in diet. These workshops taught participants how small changes in diet (reducing sugar, salt, fats, and calories) combined with adequate physical activity add up to improved health.

The science-based advice on the Dietary Guidelines and Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans can help people make food choices that promote good health, maintain a healthy weight, and prevent disease. Limited health literacy is associated with poorer health outcomes and higher health costs.¹ Health literacy education can empower adults to make wise nutritional choices. Accurate information and guidance can help people to acquire the skills and knowledge they need to make healthy, nutritionally sound choices that lead to a better quality of life.

As a result of twenty-two Autauga County residents attending Eat Healthy, Be Active Community Workshops, fourteen participants agreed to change their eating habits by increasing fruits and vegetables, modifying recipes to make them healthier, planning their meals ahead of time and being more active.

¹Department of Health & Human Services, Literacy and Health Outcomes, 2004

Basic Computer Usage & Social Networking Workshops for Seniors



The Basic Computer Usage and Social Networking Workshops offer senior Autauga County residents an opportunity to learn some of the basics for using computers including: Internet search tutorials, using e-mail, and safely navigating social networking sites.

If you are one of our growing number of mature adults over 50,  60 , 70, or in retirement, why not try our free hands – on workshops now?  Whether you’re retired, or an adult learning for the home or workplace, our workshops will take your social, personal, family, or career to the next level.  Call 361.7273 or visit our Calendar of Events to find the next workshop location and dates.image (5)