Best Before & Use By - What's the Difference?

Updated: May 1




There’s a lot of information on food labels, most of it makes perfect sense, however there’s two pieces of information that confuse consumers and contribute to food waste, even though that isn’t the intention.


First off, not all products will have both, and as a general rule of thumb, any product which has a shelf life of less than two years, must have a best before date on the packaging, whilst it is often not mandatory to have a use by date, so what’s the difference?


 

Use By Dates


A use by date is literally the date that the product must be consumed by, as consuming it past this date can cause a consumer to become ill, or worse. Use by dates are directly related to the food safety attributes of a product, which is why you will see them on high risk foods such as dairy, meat, seafood and ready to eat foods.


Best Before Dates


A best before date is the date that the product will be at it's best before, but consuming it past this date presents minimal risk to the consumers health, provided that the manufacturers storage instructions are followed and the packaging is intact. Best before dates will often appear on lower risk products, such as confectionery, tinned foods, dried foods (such as pasta, pulses and lentils) and uncooked rice.


 

In Summary


Use by dates represent the food safety attributes of your products, and consuming past this date can cause ill health to your consumer, even if the product looks and smells fine.


Best before dates represent the quality attributes of your products, and consuming past this date is unlikely to cause ill health to your consumer if it is stored correctly, in intact packaging, however it will not taste or function at it's best.

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