The expiration dates imprinted on a food product’s packaging are suggestions rather than exact safety regulations, according to a statement published on the United States Food and Drug Administration’s website. The use buy dates mandated by the safety administration for perishable food items such as dairy and meat products are a general guideline referring to the best time frame in which to consume the product for optimum quality, according to the answer to a frequently asked question posted to the Food and Drug Administration’s web site, but the date is not an absolute deadline for the last possible day in which the product can be safely consumed. If the product is packaged and stored according to Food and Drug Administration’s food storage safety specifications, which include keeping the product at a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder, the product should last beyond its marked best by date. According to information posted on the health agency’s web site, the only food product requiring an absolute expiration date is infant formula. According to a study on grocery store food waste, every grocery store employee in the United States, on average, throws away an estimated two and a half tons of unsold food products that have met their best by dates while still sitting on the store shelves every year. So called expiration dates are a guideline once products are stored at home, but the Food and Drug Administration advises consumers to discard any discolored or funny smelling food products.