Understanding the difference between best-before dates and use-by dates

Understanding the difference between best-before dates and use-by dates

Food that has been stored for too long, or stored at the wrong temperature, could contain bacteria which can cause food poisoning. When it comes to food safety, it’s important to understand the difference between use-by dates and best before dates. Most food safety consultants agree that there is often confusion between the two, so it’s best for you and your colleagues to be clear on the meanings of each.

Use-by dates relate to product safety

On food packaging, the use-by date is the most important one to remember. Food that has reached its use-by date should not be consumed, and the items should be disposed of as per HACCP guidelines. Use-by dates are typically printed on the packaging of fresh goods, such as meat or ready-to-eat salads.

For use-by dates to be accurate, foods must be stored in adherence with the storage instructions printed on the packaging. For example, if an item has instructions to keep it refrigerated, it should be stored in a fridge at no higher than the stipulated temperature normally 5°c or less.

Food that has been stored for too long, or stored at the wrong temperature, could contain bacteria which can cause food poisoning. When it comes to food safety, it’s important to understand the difference between use-by dates and best before dates. Most food safety consultants agree that there is often confusion between the two, so it’s best for you and your colleagues to be clear on the meanings of each.

Use-by dates relate to product safety

On food packaging, the use-by date is the most important one to remember. Food that has reached its use-by date should not be consumed, and the items should be disposed of as per HACCP guidelines. Use-by dates are typically printed on the packaging of fresh goods, such as meat or ready-to-eat salads.

For use-by dates to be accurate, foods must be stored in adherence with the storage instructions printed on the packaging. For example, if an item has instructions to keep it refrigerated, it should be stored in a fridge at no higher than the stipulated temperature normally 5°c or less.

Best before dates relate to product quality

On food packaging, the best before date (sometimes abbreviated to BBE – or “best before end”) pertains to the quality of the product, as opposed to its safety. Once the product reaches its best before date, it will still be safe to eat – but it might not be in its best condition. The flavour or texture of the product might not be quite as good, but it is still perfectly safe – and legal – to sell for consumption.

Best before dates appear on a wide variety of foods, including most frozen foods, tinned foods and dried foods. However, it’s worth noting that the best before date will only be accurate if the product has been stored according to the instructions on the packaging (for example, in a cupboard and away from sources of direct heat or light). If food has been incorrectly stored, its quality may become affected – even if it is in sealed packaging.

For more information on the importance of use-by dates and best-before dates, why not arrange for some online food safety training?

Best before dates relate to product quality

On food packaging, the best before date (sometimes abbreviated to BBE – or “best before end”) pertains to the quality of the product, as opposed to its safety. Once the product reaches its best before date, it will still be safe to eat – but it might not be in its best condition. The flavour or texture of the product might not be quite as good, but it is still perfectly safe – and legal – to sell for consumption.

Best before dates appear on a wide variety of foods, including most frozen foods, tinned foods and dried foods. However, it’s worth noting that the best before date will only be accurate if the product has been stored according to the instructions on the packaging (for example, in a cupboard and away from sources of direct heat or light). If food has been incorrectly stored, its quality may become affected – even if it is in sealed packaging.

For more information on the importance of use-by dates and best-before dates, why not arrange for some online food safety training?