Use by date vs. Best Before date


Ever get confused as to why some food packages are labled “Use by….” and others are labled “Best Before….” ? Well here is our guide put together by the food safety training team here at Carlton Training.

All pre packed food must have a date label.

Use by date : some foods have a “use by” date. This means that if the food is stored in accordance with the instructions on the label it will be safe to eat up to that date. Foods that are highly perishable have a “use by” date. Cream cakes, sausages, pasteurized milk, pre prepared ready meals, fresh pasta, quiches and packets of sandwiches are all “use by” foods. These foods are usually kept in the fridge. The ideal temperature for the fridge is 1 degree centigrade to 4 degrees centigrade and should be checked daily. It can be a criminal offence to sell or serve food past its “use by” date.  It is critial for food safety that you follow these use by dates.

Best Before date : other foods and drinks have a “best before” date. These are foods and drinks with a longer shelf life. Some examples are canned food and drinks, packets of biscuits and UHT milk. Dry goods such as pasta, flour, rice and sugar also have “best before” dates. The “best before” date indicates that the food will be at its best quality up to that date. Again, this will only be the case if the food is stored in accordance with the instructions on the label.  Ignoring the “best before” date is not normally a food safety problem, but it is a good idea to only use the food before this date.

Food that is not pre packed does not need a date label.  So when you go to your local greengrocer, butcher or fishmonger you do not get a “use by” or “best before” date.

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