The main difference between use by and best before is that use by is an indication about safety while best before is an indication about quality.
Storing food for too long or at the wrong temperature can cause food poisoning. Therefore, it’s important to properly understand different types of food labels and dates on food packaging. Use by and best before dates are two such labels we can usually observe on food packaging.
Key Areas Covered
1. What Does Use By Date Mean
– Definition, Facts
2. What Does Best Before Date Mean
– Definition, Facts
3. What is the Difference Between Use By and Best Before
– Comparison of Key Differences
Best Before Date, Food Labels, Use by Date
What Does Use By Mean
A use-by date on a food item is an indication of safety. It indicates that a food item can be eaten until the use-by date, but not after that date. Therefore, the use-by date is a very important label to consider when buying food. After this date, you should not eat, cook, or store food. Even though food may look and smell fine after the use-by date, it might be unsafe to eat it. Consuming food or beverages past their use-by date can even result in food poisoning.
Food items that get spoiled quickly usually have a use-by date. For example, meat products and ready-to-eat salads. These food items generally have clear storage instructions on the package. You must make sure to follow these instructions correctly. For example, if the instructions tell you to refrigerate after opening, you should keep it in a fridge after opening. Moreover, if a food item can be frozen, we can extend its life beyond the use-by date. Nevertheless, it’s important to notice that food cannot be legally sold after their use-by date since they pose a safety risk to consumers.
What Does Best Before Mean
Best before date is an indication of quality. Since it’s about quality, food that is passed best before date may not be harmful for consumption, but they have lost its texture and flavour. You can observe this best before date in a wide range of food items, including tinned food, dried food and frozen food.
Sometimes, best before date is shown as BBE, indicating best before end. It’s also important to notice that this best before date is only applicable if the food is stored according to instructions on the packaging. Unlike food items that have passed use-by date, food items that have gone past the best before date can be legally sold since they are fit for consumption.
Difference Between Use By and Best Before
Use by date is an indication about safety while best before date is an indication about quality.
Nature of Food
After the use by date, that food is not safe for consumption; however, after best before date, that food is safe to eat, but may not be at its best quality.
Types of Food
Food items that get spoiled quickly usually have a use by date; for example, meat products and ready-to-eat salads. Meanwhile, best before date is typically used for food with long lifespans; for example, tinned, canned, and frozen food items.
Food cannot be legally sold after their use by date since they pose a safety risk to consumers while food can be sold after their best before date since they are safe for consumption.
The main difference between use by and best before is that use by is an indication about safety while best before is an indication about quality. After the use by date, that food is not safe for consumption; however, after best before date, that food is safe to eat, but may not be at its best quality.
1. “Food Labelling Terms.” NHS Choices, NHS, Available here.