Use by dates highlights when food will be no longer healthy to consume. After the use date you cannot serve, or freeze it even though it looks or smells amazing. Best before dates, instead are an indicator of consistency. After the best before the date, you will still eat food, but the flavour and texture are most definitely not as good as before the date.

Use by dates are used for items such as meats and dairy products, as well as ready meals such as salads. The directions on these items must be followed.

Best before dates are on goods that do not need refrigeration or freezing. Examples of these items are dry noodles, bread, tinned foods, fruit and vegetables, and uncooked rice, for instance. The length of the best product before life varies widely among foods. For starters, bread is typically best before dates of no more than a week, whereas tinned goods can last for years.

The way you store the items often lengthens the best before life. For instance: maintaining it in a cold dry spot,

Use By Dates

  • Use by dates state the time up to which a food is safe to eat.
  • They are generally found on high-risk foods which require refrigeration, such as fish, meat products, pre-prepared foods and dairy products.
  • Using food after its use-by date can put you at risk of food poisoning. Make sure you pay attention to what the date on the label says.
  • Foods that have passed their use-by date may still look OK to eat, but harmful bacteria cannot be seen and does not have a smell.
  • Foods labelled with a use-by date should be checked daily to make sure they are still safe to eat.
  • Freezing food before its use-by date extends its life. But once defrosted, you should eat the food within 24 hours. Do not freeze food after its use-by date.

Best Before Dates

  • Best-before dates indicate the length of time for which a food will be at its best quality.
  • They appear on a wide range of foods including fresh, frozen, dried and tinned.
  • Food that has passed its best-before date is not unsafe to eat, but it may lose some of its flavour, texture and quality.
  • Best-before dates generally appear on foods with a longer shelf life.
The Scottish Pantry Network