Best before vs. Use by Dates

The difference between best before and use by dates

Canned food products, medicine, meats and other perishable products have a shelf life, which means there are dates after which the food is no longer fit for consumption. These are shown on the product by “best before” and “use by” dates. They refer to different time periods and usually a product will have only one or the other. These are dates that offer guidelines about when you should throw away the food and not eat it.

Best before Dates

Canned foods, dried foods and processed foods have a best before date on the packaging. These are advice dates only and mean that after that date, the food will start to lose its freshness. It doesn’t mean that the food has spoiled and should be thrown out. It is still good to eat, but it may not taste the same. Many people think that this date means that once it has passed that the food should be thrown away and as a result there is a lot of food wasted.

Eggs are different, though. When you have eggs in your refrigerator that are beyond the best before date, you should throw them out. The shelf life of eggs is 28 days and they should be sold within 21 days of being laid. This is because eggs are susceptible to salmonella, which is a very serious form of food poisoning. On the shelves of stores, eggs should be disposed of seven days before the best before date that is stamped on the carton.

On some products it is difficult for the manufacturers to write the best before date on them because of the type of packaging. The best before date should be easy to see. In such cases as this, the information can usually be found on the bottom of the package.

Use by Dates

The use by date on a product means that if the product hasn’t been used by this date it should be thrown away. Food products can really make you ill if you eat them after this date and it is illegal for stores to sell these products after that date has passed. It doesn’t matter if the product has been opened or not. Even when it is in a sealed bottle or can it is not fit to use after the “Use by” date.

The difference between Best Before and Use By dates

The best before date that is printed on products means that the food or medicine will remain fresh until that date. It is still safe to eat it after that but it may have lost some of its flavor. The Use By date means that after that date the product should be thrown away because it is no longer safe to eat. Even though eggs have a best before date, in this case it is also a use by date. Eggs should not be consumed after 28 days from the time they have been laid and should not be sold seven days before the best before date.