Durability - use by/best before dates

What is the difference between a 'best before' date and a 'use by' date?

  • The 'best before' date is appropriate for the vast majority of foods and indicates the period for which a food can reasonably be expected to retain its optimal condition (e.g. it will not be stale) and relates to the quality of the food.

  • The 'use by' date is the required form of date mark for those foods which are highly perishable from a microbiological point of view and which are likely after a relatively short period to present a risk of food poisoning, and relates to the safety of the food.

For further guidance visit the NHS website.

Guidance on the application of date labels to food

Date marks on food products should help consumers make safe and optimum use of the foods they buy. The guidance on the application of date labels to food was published in September 2011. It is aimed mainly at food businesses, including trade associations and similar representative groups and also helps consumers indirectly by improving the consistency of the use of the 'best before' and 'use by' date marks.

The UK food labelling rules require most pre-packed foodstuffs to carry a durability mark. This can be either one or two types of date marking depending on the nature of the product. The first marking must be indicated by the words 'best before' or 'best before end' followed by a date. The second marking must be indicated by the words 'use by' followed by a date. For more information visit the GOV.UK website.

Last updated: 3.15pm on Sunday 29 October 2017

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