What is the difference between ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ on food labels?

‘Best before’ and ‘Use by’ Explained

Image source: https://www.metrowaste.co.uk/tesco-best-before-date/

Image source: https://www.metrowaste.co.uk/tesco-best-before-date/

When deciding on whether to eat food that is ‘out of date’, you can ignore the ‘sell by’ and ‘display until’ dates. What you want to be paying attention to are ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ dates and know the difference. 

All pre-packed food should have one of these two date marks displayed on its packaging.

Source: https://www.highspeedtraining.co.uk/hub/use-by-best-before-dates-difference/

Source: https://www.highspeedtraining.co.uk/hub/use-by-best-before-dates-difference/

‘Use by’ dates are put on high-risk foods. This food is likely to cause food poisoning if you eat it after the ‘use by’ date. This food is mostly food that is:

  • ready to eat

  • moist

  • high in protein

  • requires chilling

  • has a short shelf life

On the other hand, the ‘best before’ dates usually appear on food that has a longer shelf-life. For example food which is:

  • canned

  • dried (spices, for example)

  • frozen food

If you eat food whose ‘best before’ date has passed, it is more the quality of the food that will suffer rather than the fact that your safety may be compromised. Best before dates should be used as a rough guide to help you get a sense of how old the food is.

Use common sense to minimize food waste

In the end, these food labels make consumers not want to make decisions about their food based on common sense. Sure, it’s best to be on the safe side when it comes to ‘use by’ labels, but with ‘best before’, you should try, smell and look at food and think twice before you throw it out. It is probably safe to eat.