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  • Writer's pictureSarah Brosnahan

Use-by vs Best-before dates - do you know the difference?

Updated: May 17, 2023

One of the big issues we see in the food waste space, is people mistaking best-before dates for use-by dates, resulting in perfectly edible food getting thrown away.

So what is the difference?

Use-by dates - these are the important dates and are there to keep you safe. Use-by dates are legally required for health and safety reasons and are found on perishable foods such as meat, poultry and deli products. Food can legally not be sold after its use-by date.

Best-before dates - these dates are there to provide a general guide to tell you when the food is at its best. In saying this, food doesn't magically "go off" when the clock strikes 12am. Given it has been stored correctly, it is usually perfectly ok to eat after this date and can legally still be sold after this date as long as it is fit for consumption.

If food is past its best-before date, here's what we suggest you do to assess the product:

  • LOOK 👀 have a look at the product - does it look like it normally does? If it looks the same and there's no mould, you're probably ok.

  • SMELL 👃have a smell - does it smell as you'd normally expect?

  • TASTE 👅have a small taste - dip a finger or break off a small portion and taste it. If it tastes the same it's ok to eat.

Food that's not ok to consume will usually tell us via it's look, smell or taste; so using your sense is a great way to assess this.

When you are next clearing out your pantry and fridge, be sure to check if it is a use-by or before-before date that is guiding your decisions and check that you are storing food correctly to ensure it lasts!

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