Shelf Life of Food – “Best Before” vs. “Use By”

Do you know the difference between “best before date” and “use by”?

MB 09-17-2019

It’s important to understand the difference between what food manufacturers and producers mean by a best before date and a use by date.

A best before date means manufacturers give you a guide of when their foods will still taste good. You may not know this, but in order to find out the best-before dates on foods, manufacturers expose their products to a so-called stress test. Climatic conditions such as an incubator, refrigerator or humid room temperatures can artificially cause food to age rapidly. The decisive factors for determining if food is still at its best are the product’s taste, smell, consistency and nutritional composition. When the manufacturer knows these, they can suggest the optimal best before date and often add in a little buffer time. This means that almost all packaged foods can still be used after the best before date has expired. Dry foods such as rice, pasta, semolina, salt, honey and sugar have practically an unlimited shelf life. We suggest that you rely on your senses and common sense.

However, this is different for “use by” dates. This date is printed on perishable products such as ground meat, fresh poultry or smoked salmon. After the “use by” date has expired, this product may not be sold and should not be eaten either.

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