Use-by dates and best-before dates explained

We’ve all been there: you go to the fridge and realise the bread you bought a couple of days ago has passed its best-before date. It looks fresh, and it smells good – but what’s the risk?

Most of the time, we choose to chuck out of date food in the bin rather than risk an upset stomach or food poisoning.  But is all out of date food dangerous to our health?

Surprisingly, many products are perfectly safe after their expiry date.  And with the average UK household binning £470 of edible food per year, it’s worth getting label-savvy.

So when is it OK to eat; and when should we steer clear?

Know your labels – and save!

Lots of us are unaware of the difference between a best-before date and a use-by date on our food.  But knowing this important distinction could save you a fortune.

Use-By date

Usually found on meat, dairy and other fresh products, a use-by date should never be ignored.  Once this date has passed, the food is unfit for consumption, so make sure you always check packaging carefully and throw anything out of date in the bin – even if it looks and smells OK.

Top tip
Most food can be frozen up until the use-by date, so if you’re not going to eat it in time, check the packaging to see if you can freeze it for later!

What is a BBE date?

BBE date or Best Before End dates are often (incorrectly) perceived to be the date on which a food, if uneaten in time, will go off and therefore need to be thrown away. However, this is not the case. BBE dates are actually all about the quality of a product and not about whether it is safe to eat or not. In most situations, the food will be fine to eat, but it may have lost some of its flavour and original texture. Frozen, dried and tinned foods are those most affected.

Plan and save

It’s not always possible to plan everything we eat – but it’s worth trying to think through as many of your meals in advance as you can.  This will ensure you don’t buy too much, and that food will be fresh when you come to use it. 

Store and save

Did you know, that best-before and use-by dates are only valid if food is stored correctly?  Check the packaging on your food for storage instructions to avoid waste.

Reduce waste – and save!

Being label-savvy should mean a reduction in the food-waste of your household – which is good for the environment and great for your bank balance!

Get label smart – and save!