What Do 'BEST BEFORE' Dates Mean ?

The Rule of Thumb

Food that has passed its best before is safe to eat, but the flavor and texture may change over time. Use your own common sense and preferences to assess it. A sniff and taste test is the best way to do this.

Food that has passed its use-by date is not safe to eat.

Best before

Best before dates are an indicative guide of when the quality of food or drink will start to change. They are not to do with safety. Food that has passed its best before date is safe to eat.

Best before should be considered a rough guide rather than a strict rule. There is no reason to throw away food that goes past its best before date, it is perfectly safe to eat and will often taste just as good.

The government has actually considered scrapping best before dates to help prevent food waste. Best before dates can give a misleading impression that food is no longer suitable for consumption, meaning lots of consumers will throw out their food after the best before date has passed when they don?t need to. The UK throws away 7.3 million tonnes of food per year; 2 million of this is thrown away by households and 670,000 of this is food that has been thrown out because food labels have been misinterpreted. The majority of this could have been eaten. This costs households an average of £500 year in wasted food annually.

Reduce your food waste, don't throw out food just because it has passed its best before! 

Use by

Use by dates relate to the safety of the food. You shouldn't eat food that has gone past its use-by date as it may be unsafe.

Sell by and display until

The sell by and display until date is only relevant to shops and supermarket its not designed to pass information to the consumer. Its main aim is to help stock control processes. The dates are not required by law and do not relate to food safety.

Sell by and display by dates were originally included on foods in the form of codes that weren't explicit with the pure aim of aiding stock rotation. A lot of supermarkets have phased out or minimised the use of sell-by dates as it can confuse consumers, leading them to throw out perfectly good food and contributing to the huge problem of unnecessary food waste in the UK.

Legal obligations

Food producers and manufacturers have a legal obligation to include either a best before or use-by date on their food.

Supermarkets and retailers can legally sell produce that has passed its best before date, but cannot sell food that has passed its use by date since use by is related to safety rather than quality.

How are food dates worked out?

Food dates are worked out in a number of different ways. Each manufacturer will have their own tests that they undertake to establish how to date the food. Food producers will undertake testing in conditions that replicate possible food storage conditions and measure the impact on specific products, monitoring things like bacterial growth, as well as undertaking taste and quality tests to help establish a suitable best before date.

All food sold by Bargain Foods will have undergone testing and comply with necessary requirements, meaning it is entirely safe to consume.