Can you eat food after Best Before Dates?

knowing what you can and cannot eat will help you reduce your food waste and your grocery bills. Follow our simple guide to staying safe and spending less
Can you eat food after Best Before Dates? -

Can you eat Food after Best Before Dates?

Food waste is a major issue. With growing populations, pressures on harvests from climate change and still a significant proportion of the World's population suffering from food poverty, even in Western economies, food waste is a major issue.

Thousands of tonnes of good food goes to landfill every year. This is food that could go to those struggling to put food on the table. Part of this waste is due to the cautious nature of retailers to dispose of food instead of donating it or selling it past the best before date due to the fear of retribution if somebody becomes ill from consuming this food.

This often means that good food from supermarket shelves and grab and go eateries simply goes in the bin. 

Recently, UK supermarkets have taken action to this wastage by removing best before dates from fresh fruit and vegetables. This makes a welcome change. After all, once upon a time, in your local Green Grocer's, there was no plastic packaging with a date stamped on. People would judge their fruit and vegetables by eye and touch.

One issue here is not knowing the difference between best before dates and use by dates. 

As suggested in the name, best before dates are simply the date before which would be best to consumer the food and drink.

What does 'best before' even mean?

Commonly, best before means how long a product retains it's original properties appearance, taste, vitamin and mineral content etc. This could mean for a sparkling orange soft drink how long it remains sparkling and still tastes and looks orange.

If one of these properties aren't met then it's past its best before date but it would be still perfect to consume.

How do food and drink brands decide on best before dates?

A little known insight into food and drink brands is that best before dates often remain on the cautious side when the product is first launched, especially long dated stock like cans or tins. This is because brands won't wait 2 years to see how the food and drink reacts to see if it's still good. That would just be wasting time. It's common practise to perform accelerated shelf life testing using UV booths but this will never fully replicate real time degradation.

Once brands have seen real time performance of the shelf life, the best before dates will be extended. This means for many new launches, the best before date could be hit and the product could still well be at its best.

Is food and drink past its best before date save to eat?

Yes, food and drink past it's best before date is perfectly safe to eat.

Unlike used by dates, which when hit, it's recommended that they aren't consumed.

Knowing that food that is past its best before date is perfectly good to purchase and consume will help to reduce food waste, both in the supermarkets and at home. This discounted food or yellow stickered items, will help you to reduce your grocery bills and you have peace of mind that they are perfectly safe to eat. 

difference between best before and use by dates

Which products have Used by Dates and Best Before Dates?

Used by Dates are generally applied to high-risk foods that require refrigeration such as meats, fish and dairy products. What makes them 'high-risk' is that they are at greater risk of causing food poisoning.

For these high-risk foods, you shouldn't consume past their use by dates unless they have been frozen. Even when they have been frozen, you should use as soon as they have been defrosted.

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