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Techly Explains

Techly Explains: What’s the difference between ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ dates?

Have you ever noticed how some food is “best before” while others need to be “used by”? I mean, what’s up with that?

Odds are you’ve probably written it off as being a simple choice by the manufacturer – best before has slightly more positive connotations.

But there’s actually a pretty important difference.

Essentially, “best before” is a recommendation. You can eat food that’s past its “best before” but it will likely no longer be at its best.

By comparison, “use by” is not a recommendation – it’s the law. Food that has past its “use by” date can no longer be legally sold. You can still eat it (it’s a free country) but you’re rolling the dice by doing so.

The official line from Food Standards Australia and New Zealand is as follows:

“Foods that must be eaten before a certain time for health or safety reasons should be marked with a use by date. Foods should not be eaten after the use by date and can’t legally be sold after this date because they may pose a health or safety risk.

“Most foods have a best before date. You can still eat foods for a while after the best before date as they should be safe but they may have lost some quality. Foods that have a best before date can legally be sold after that date provided the food is fit for human consumption.”

The simple rule that Food Standards recommends you live by is “if in doubt throw it out”, although you can probably afford to play things a little more fast and loose when it comes to the term “best before”.

About the author

Joe was Junior Vice-President at Compu-Global-Hyper-Mega-Net until it was bought out by Bill Gates. He now subedits for Conversant Media and considers it a step up.

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