Are you confused about food use by and best before dates? if so read on it may save you money
In the office, today one of the staff mentioned they wouldn't eat food which had today's date on. So the banter began, "if it smells and looks ok its fine"quoted the older generation, however it turned out that most didn't know they were throwing food away simply because they thought use by and best before dates meant the same. So we turned to the food standards agency website to find the facts, which may save on waste and help you save money by making your food shopping last longer.
Use-by dates are about safety
A use-by date on food is about safety. This is the most important date to remember. Foods can be eaten until the use-by date but not after. You will see use-by dates on food that goes off quickly, such as meat products or ready-to-eat salads.
For the use-by date to be a valid guide, you must carefully follow storage instructions. For example, if the instructions on the packaging tell you to refrigerate after opening, you should keep the food in a fridge at 5°C or below. Find out more about chilling your food 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 has been stored correctly and looks and smells fine. A lot of foods, including meat and milk, can be frozen before the use-by date though so plan ahead.
Best before dates are about quality
The best before date, sometimes shown as BBE (best before end), is about quality and not safety. The food will be safe to eat after this date but may not be at its best. Its flavour and texture might not be as good. Best before dates appear on a wide range of foods including:
- frozen foods
- dried foods
- tinned foods
The best before date will only be accurate if the food is stored according to the instructions on the packaging.
So, what is the Sell By Date of a food item? The “Sell By Date” on a product is the items expiration date, the end of its shelf life at the store. This is the last date stores are supposed to display the product for sale, after the Sell By Date the stores should remove the product.
Freeze and defrost your food correctly
Food properly frozen won’t deteriorate and bacteria cannot grow in it, so when frozen it can’t become more unsafe. Once defrosted however, the pause button is off. Only defrost food as you need it and eat it within 24 hours. Once food has been defrosted, use it within 24 hours and cook it until steaming hot before serving.
For more details visit the Food standard agencies website
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