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Difference Between Best Before and Use By Date

From The Editor's Inbox: What's the Difference Between 'Best Before' & 'Use By'?

"I started a big Spring clean in my kitchen and noticed some of my canned food is past its use by date. I'd like to know the difference between 'best before' dates and 'use by', and whether I should chuck my food away?" — Sam

Keep reading . . .
Dear Sam,

All foods must have a ‘best before’ or ‘use-by’ date, but the meaning of these two terms are quite different. The Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) have codes that are set to protect consumers from unsafe foods, which include food labels that are accurate and not misleading. But let's break it down.

Best Before: This is the date you'll find on most cereals, biscuits, snack foods, flour, eggs, canned and frozen food. It has more to do with the quality and the freshness of the product rather than the safety, and suggests that these foods will remain fresh right up until the labelled date. Foods past this date, might still be able to be eaten but it generally means the quality, flavour, texture might not be as good. With that said, eggs should not be eaten past the 'best before' date as they contain a bacteria that could multiply after the recommended date.

Use by: You'll see 'use by' dates on fresh food that can go off quickly like meats, fish, dairy and anything ready-made in the fridge section. It's law that foods cannot be sold after their 'use by date'. And if these foods are past their 'date' it's best to throw them away to avoid any associated health risks. Even if they look and smell fine. A good indication that red meat is going off is the colour, as it will darken with age.

Hope this has helped Sam and good luck with the Spring cleaning! — Steph, POPSUGAR health and beauty journalist

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