Use by Date v’s Best Before Date

Use by Date

It’s important to understand the difference between Use by Date v’s Best Before Date on the food you buy.

The ‘best before’ date is often mistaken for the expiry date.

This can mean any foods expired after the best before date can end up in the trash, but the food would have still been completely edible, and you could have avoided food waste. So, what’s the difference between the two?

Best before Date

The best before date refers to the quality and not food safety meaning the food will be safe to eat after this date but may not be at its best. The texture and flavour may not be as good.   You will usually find the best before dates on a wide range of frozen, dried, tinned and other foods.

Remember: The best before date will only be accurate if the food is stored according to the instructions on the label.


Use by Date

Food can be safely eaten up to the end of the ‘use by’ date if it’s been stored correctly.  After the use by date, don’t eat it, cook it or freeze it. The food could be unsafe to eat or drink, even if it is stored correctly and looks and smells fine.

Remember: Food can look and smell fine even after its use by date, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe to consume and could be contaminated! You can’t see, smell or taste the bugs that cause food poisoning


Display until / Sell by

The Display/ Sell by date is aimed at the shop staff for stock production and not for the customer, you can ignore this date!


You can safely freeze most foods right up to the use by date. When in doubt always make sure you check the packaging for information about storage and follow their instructions.


Sources: FSA, Tesco