Have you ever been in a situation where you pull something out of the fridge or pantry, planning on cooking it for dinner when you notice the date on it has passed? Do you always second guess the best before date or the use-by-date?
A statement given on the Food Standards website in 2015 says “Date marks give a guide to how long food can be kept before it begins to deteriorate or may become unsafe to eat. The food supplier is responsible for placing a use by or best before date on food’’.
The following will put your mind at ease when faced with these ‘dates’ situations.
Best Before Date
This one is pretty easy to explain, the meaning is virtually written in the title. The best before date on products indicate when the taste of the food will be at its peak. You can still safely consume products after best before dates and I personally tend to ignore them most of the time, within reason.
Manufacturers tend to choose a best-before date well before the time when the quality of the food would be expected to decline and spoil, mostly just to be cautious. A best-before date is listed to encourage you to eat the product while it is fresh and at its best.
The use-by date on the other hand, tells you when a food product must be consumed by, for the safety of your own health. Food businesses can not legally sell products past their use-by-date. Doing so creates a high risk of health and safety issues such as food poisoning, especially if not stored correctly before the use by date.
If you do purchase products close to their use-by dates, freeze them immediately for up to 2-3 months (this depends on the individual item) and make sure you do not refreeze it unless it has been completely cooked first. Completely cooking fresh food i.e. red meat, poultry, dairy and soft fruits etc. changes the chemical makeup of the food.
Generally speaking, there are some exceptions to this use-by-date rule. Very sugary, salty, fermented or dried foods, such as; jam, honey, preserves, pickles, cured ham, kimchi, sauerkraut, crackers and biscuits and hard cheeses, such as cheddar etc. are low risk of getting food poisoning from if eaten within 3-10 days of their used by dates. Please remember that this is very dependant on the particular product and how is has been stored.