Food Safety and Hygiene

Use by Date Meaning: Difference between Use By & Best Before Dates

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Foods you buy from stores are allowed to eat until a specific time. After the date expires, consuming the food will cause poisoning, including many other food-borne diseases. To ensure that consumers do not eat or use out of date foods, manufacturers use ‘Use by’ and ‘Best Before’ dates. But, these two terms have different meanings.

You can not eat food after the use-by date is over, but you can, in some instances, eat best before food after the date is over. But how would you know which food is safe to eat after the use-by date is over? Or how would you know which food you can or can not eat after the best before date is over? Well, this blog will teach you the Use by date meaning and its meaning and importance of the best before date.

What does the use by date meaning?

About the use by date meaning, the Food Standards Agency states, “A use-by date on food is about safety. This is the most important date to remember. You can eat food until and on the use-by date but not after.” Food is not safe to eat after use-by dates.

Use By Dates

The use by date meaning a guideline for when a food item will be at its finest. If you eat anything after this date, the food’s flavour, texture, or appearance has likely degraded.

For example, cans, dry goods, condiments, and other shelf-stable items frequently have use-by dates. In addition, food spoiling quickly, such as smoked salmon, meat products, and ready-made salads will have a use-by date.

The use-by date is a critical aspect of food safety; consuming food after it has passed this date can lead to foodborne diseases. Failing to follow these guidelines increases the risk of contamination. That’s why everyone needs to take the Foodborne Diseases Course – Bacteria and Risky Foods. This course helps you understand potential risks related to foodborne illnesses and contamination. So, if you ever consider eating food past its use-by date, you’ll be aware of the possible consequences.

a canned food showing the best before date


What does the best before date mean?

The best before date on a food packaging indicates when the food’s shelf life has expired. They are primarily concerned with quality rather than safety. When the best before date passes, the food is no longer hazardous, but it may begin to lose its flavour and texture.

Eggs are an exception, with a best before date of no more than 28 days after being laid. After this date, the egg’s quality will decline, and any Salmonella germs present will be able to increase to dangerously high levels, potentially making you sick.

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Best Before Dates

The best before date informs customers that the unopened product will be of excellent quality until that date. The key to this date is that the product is handled and stored according to the manufacturer’s guidelines.

If you don’t follow the manufacturer’s handling and storage guidelines, the product’s quality will degrade before the best-before date. The best before date is no longer valid if a package is opened.

Difference between use by and best before dates

Understanding the differences between use-by dates and best before dates are crucial as the safety of your health depends on it. Let’s learn the differences between these dates and the foods that use these dates.

Use-by DatesBest Before Dates
The use-by date refers to food safety. You should not eat food after it has passed its use-by date.The best before refers to the food quality. You can eat it after it has passed its best before date, in this case. 
For use-by dates, following the storage instructions, preparing the food as directed, and consuming it before the expiration date is vital.If the food looks, smells, and tastes good, and the packaging is still intact, it’s probably safe to eat even if it’s over its best before date.
Very perishable foods are given a use-by date (likely to spoil and risk making people sick quickly). Fresh meat, fish, dairy products, fruit juices, and other chilled ready-to-eat foods fall into this category.You can find the best-before date on various items, whether refrigerated, frozen, dry, tinned or otherwise. This includes pasta, rice, and other grains, as well as dried pulses, canned fruits and vegetables, vegetable oils, chocolate, and a variety of different foods.

Sell By and Display Until Dates

A “sell-by” date is more aimed at the retailer, suggesting when the goods should be rotated off the shelves. For example, the first date you may notice on a pack is ‘Display Until’ or ‘Sell By’. These dates are not required by law but serve as a reminder to the shop’s employees. You should be concerned with ‘Use By’ and ‘Best Before’.

In the food industry, a man succeeds when his business earns a 5-star rating. Keeping use-by dates and best-before dates in check while handling food is one of the crucial parts of food safety. That’s where the Achieving Food Hygiene Rating Level 5 Training comes in. This course transforms you into an expert, helping you attain the highest food hygiene rating and boosting confidence for both you and your customers.

A sticker showing the expire date of a frozen food


Why Difference between use by date and best before date is important?

Every year, we throw away 8.3 million tonnes of food and drink in the UK, most of which might have been consumed. So think again before tossing food that has passed its “best before” date. The best-before dates indicate how long the food will keep its quality before it deteriorates. So, for example, if a product is correctly stored at the store and at home, it will remain fresh and of good quality until the best-before date (and possibly beyond).

It may still be safe to eat those foods after the best before date, but their quality and nutritional content may have deteriorated. For example, a ‘use-by’ date is required on foods you should not consume beyond a specified date. For instance, if the shelf life of bread is fewer than seven days, it can be labelled with a, ‘baked on’ or ‘baked for’ date.

You need to know the difference between use-by and best before dates to know when to throw which products and which products are still safe to use. Also, it would be best if you understood the process of storing them properly.

For those in the food industry, adhering to use-by dates and best-before dates is not just good practice but also a legal requirement under the 7 HACCP Principles. Understanding and implementing these principles is essential for maintaining food safety standards and legal compliance, safeguarding both your customers and your business.


Regarding your health and safety, being cautious about what you eat is crucial. You must be conscious while buying and eating store-bought food. Use-by and best before dates allow us to know the condition of the food. Ensure you check the labels for the use-by and best before dates. Also, do a routine check on the food you have stored at home. Eat the food first whose use-by date is near. Eat safe and stay healthy.


Can I eat food after the best before date?

Yes, you can eat food after the best before date, except for eggs.

How many days after the best by date is the food good?

This is how long you can safely eat the food in your fridge after the best before date has passed.

  • Milk has a 7-day shelf life, whether opened or unopened.
  • 1 to 2 weeks, depending on whether the yogurt is opened or not.
  • 4 weeks, opened or unopened butter
  • 3 weeks for eggs in the shell.
  • Salsa for 1 to 2 weeks after opening
  • 4 to 6 days after opening hummus
  • 2–4 weeks for crackers

How long is bread good after best by date?

You can eat stale bread as long as it doesn’t have mould, but it won’t taste as wonderful as fresh bread.

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