Some supermarkets have ditched ‘best before’ labels on certain food products.
It’s all part of an initiative to cut back on food waste – with concerns that best before dates put people off eating items that are perfectly fine, with the food ending up in the bin instead.
Consumers are being asked to use their ‘own judgement’ on whether something should be thrown away or kept a little longer.
Indeed, being mindful of not wasting food could even help you save a bit of cash during the cost of living crisis.
Crucially, though, best before dates are different to ‘use by’ dates. For food hygiene reasons, it’s key not to mix them up.
So, what do they both mean?
What is a use by date?
It’s important to know the difference between a ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ date.
Use by is about food safety. Usually, it’s provided on fresh, highly perishable products such as fish or chicken. Eating something after the specified use by date is considered unsafe.
The UK’s Food Standards Agency says you shouldn’t eat foods after their use by date.
Remember: it’s a food safety warning – not a guide. The date displayed is the final day the product should be eaten, even if the food looks OK and smells completely edible.
Beyond the specified date, there’s potential for bad bacteria to grow and even food poisoning to occur.
What is a best before date?
Best before is not about safety, but signifies when the food is of the highest quality.
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After the best before date, you may still be able to munch on it, but it may have a different texture, or not taste the best.
Last year, Morrisons ditched the use by label on its own-brand milk in January 2022, opting for a ‘best before’ date instead, and championing use of the ‘sniff test’.
Typically, you’ll see many items you buy from the supermarket with one of these dates. But not both.
Only one is recommend by Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), a charity and expert on food labelling – so follow whichever label they have opted for.
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