Will they still be safe to eat when a disaster arises and you need to start popping those cans open and consuming their contents?
"Best by", "sell by", "use by", "best before", and expiration dates are all terms used on food packaging, and they are often a source of confusion.
Here's what those commonly used terms actually mean, according to the USDA:
A "Best if Used By/Before" indicates when a product will be of best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
A "Sell-By" date tells the store how long to display the product for sale for inventory management. It is not a safety date.
A "Use-By" date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. It is not a safety date except for when used on infant formula as described below.
Regarding infant formula, the USDA elaborates: