Operating a food business - Frequently asked questions

What is the difference between 'use-by' and ‘best before’ dates?

A use-by date on food is about safety. This is the most important date to remember. Foods can be eaten until the use-by date but not after. You will see use-by dates on mainly chilled foods which are highly perishable and go off quickly, such as meat products or ready-to-eat sandwiches and salads.

The best before date, sometimes shown as BBE, is about quality and not safety. The food will be safe to eat after this date but may not be at its best. Its flavour and texture might not be as good. Best before dates appear on a wide range of foods including frozen foods, dried foods, tinned foods, etcetera. The best before date will only be accurate if the food is stored according to the instructions on the packaging