What’s the difference between best before date and use-by date?

What’s the difference between best before date and use-by date?

Mar 30, 2023Jonathan Englert

There's a good chance you have come across food with a best before date or a use-by date and had been unsure whether it's okay for consumption. But what is the difference, and does the date mean it should be binned?

What does “best before” date mean?

Best Before dates are a provided a guide for when an item is no longer of its best quality. Best quality can be defined in various ways, including loss of nutritional value or freshness. This doesn't mean that the food is unsafe to eat, but that you may not be eating it at its best time. Often, we rely on our senses to test if something is ok to eat. Using our senses, we can usually make sure it's still okay. You can check the smell and see if there are any obvious changes to it. 

When a food item is past its 'best before', it can still be legally sold date as long as they are not damaged, deteriorated or perished. There are a range of foods that you will come across with 'best before' foods, including canned foods, cereals, biscuits, sauces, chocolate, sugar, flour and frozen foods.

What is “use-by” date mean?

Use-by dates are used to indicate food safety. This means that if a food item is passed this date, it's no longer safe to eat. In some cases, the food may still appear to look or smell ok - or even taste okay! However, it is better not to test this out and dispose of the food. Eating food after the use-by date could be unsafe to eat as the nutrients can become unstable or/and there can be a build-up of bacteria. If you ever come across an item of food for sale that is past the use-by date, be sure to alert the seller, as it is illegal to sell foods after a 'use by' date. Foods that commonly have use-by dates include meats and milk.

Paying attention to the best before and use-by date will help you avoid food waste. If a food is approaching its use-by date, but you are not able to consume by then, you may be able to freeze the item (such as meat). Being aware of date may influence your purchases. If you know you are unable to consume the product before the use-by date, it's best not to buy it as it will inevitably become waste.

How can you avoid waste in your kitchen?

  1. Plan ahead - think about your week and how many people in your household will be eating 
  2. Use leftovers and get creative with cut-offs!
  3. Only buy what you need. Even if something is on sale or discounted and seems like a good purchase, ask yourself, will I eat this? Or will it become waste?
  4. Use the 'Use-it-all' tape from OzHarvest. This clever tapes enables you to mark foods that need to be eaten before they perish therefore avoiding waste.

At Good & Fugly, we understand the importance of buying only what you need. This is why we have a range of boxes in all sizes to suit all households! On top of that, we also provide fresh and in season fruit and vegetables, meaning your fugly stash will last longer! 


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