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Differentiating Dates

Want to put a stop to food waste in your home this year? The start of the year is a great time to make some simple behavior changes. The simplest way to do this is to educate ourselves about food safety, where food should be stored, and how to use up food nearing the end of its days!

Firstly, let’s dig into those little dates printed on the bottoms and backs of jars, stamped on labels and lids. What’s the difference between ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ dates?

‘Best before’ relates to the quality of the food product. These dates generally appear on foods with longer shelf lives. Foods with BB dates can be eaten after this date, so it’s important you use your senses to gauge its safety before deciding whether or not to eat it. Check its appearance and smell, then give it a little taste test as a last resort. Your packet of biscuits or chips isn’t magically going to go “off” at midnight on their best before date.

Whereas ‘use by’ is generally more serious and relates to the safety of the food. You’ll see these dates on meat products and ready-to-eat chilled foods, amongst other items. Foods that have passed their ‘use by’ date may still look okay to eat, but harmful bacteria mightn't be seen and the food mightn’t smell off. It’s generally not recommended to eat foods after their UB date.

Other top tips:

  • Pay attention to storage instructions on foods’ packaging, these will let you know where to keep the item and within how many days of opening to consume it.

  • If you’re in a risk group (or catering for someone who is) such as the pregnant, sick, the elderly or young, exercise extra caution.

  • If you’re unlikely to use something up before the best before/use by, freeze and simply defrost then use within 24 hours.

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