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'Best before' and 'Use by' dates

What's the difference? Treat Best Before as a guideline and Use By as a deadline

The “use-by” date tells you when the food will become unsafe to eat. 

  • You should not eat the food after this date has passed.
  • The use-by date is only valid as long as the food is stored properly, and the packaging is sealed. For instance, cooked meats should be stored in a fridge at 5° Celsius or less.

The food label will also tell you how long the food will stay safe after opening the packaging. Normally, you should eat it within two or three days.

The ‘best before’ date tells us when the quality of the food will begin to get worse. 

  • This means that the food might begin to lose its flavour and texture after that date, but it would still be safe to eat. 
  • The “best-before” date will only be valid if you store the food according to the instructions on the label.  “Store in a cool dry place” or “Keep in the fridge once opened” are common storage instructions.

A closer look

Food and drink labels normally include things like:

  • The name of the food.
  • The list of ingredients, starting with the ingredient of greatest weight and ending with that of the lowest.
  • “Use by” and “best before” dates.
  • Country of origin (where the food was produced).
  • Storage instructions.
  • Cooking instructions (if this applies).
  • Name and address of the manufacturer, packer or seller in EU.
  • Alcoholic strength of alcoholic drinks.
  • Allergens that might be present. 

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