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Use by and best before – what does it all mean?

by: Reduce the Juice group

Our Stories

Use by and best before – what does it all mean?

by: Reduce the Juice group

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“Use by” and “best before” might sound like different ways of saying the same thing, but there are very important distinctions which help with food safety and reducing food waste. Read on to find out what they mean and how to use them to help you prevent food waste.

Use by

Use by dates are important for safety and are the most important to remember. Never eat food after it’s use by date, even if it looks and smells ok (you cannot smell the bacteria which will make you unwell)1. This may seem wasteful but there are plenty of ways to prevent food from going bad in your fridge in the first place.

Assuming the food has been stored according to the instructions on the packaging you can eat food until midnight on the use-by date shown on the packaging, unless the food has been cooked or frozen1. Similarly, you can cook food until midnight of the use by date listed on the packaging, and then cool and keep in the fridge1. Cooking kills any bacteria in the food and gives you two more days to use it up1. You can also freeze food until midnight of the use by date on the packaging. Once you have defrosted the food in the fridge it should be eaten within 1 day2.

Best before 

Best before is about quality, not safety. Food eaten after the best before date on the packaging will be safe to eat but just not at its tastiest1. As long as the food looks, smells and tastes fine you can usually eat food past its best before date3. Due to their confusing nature and the fact that they encourage unnecessary food waste, best before dates are on their way out, in fact last year over 500 plant and food products had their “best before” dates removed from their packaging4.

With all this in mind, how can you avoid food waste?

We mentioned that there are plenty of ways to prevent food from going bad in your fridge in the first place, and here they are:

  1. Plan your meals ahead, check out our ‘Plan your meals, save money and reduce waste’ blog here
  2. Keep your fridge below 5° C, check our ‘storage temperatures’ blog here
  3. Follow the storage instructions on the packet
  4. Use up, cook or freeze foods that are approaching their use-by date first

Now you’re a master at understanding date labels (if you are still unsure, please check out the sources and extra resources linked below)!

*Reduce the Juice is the University of London’s sustainability engagement programme aimed at promoting sustainable consumption and reduce carbon emissions in halls of residence.

Somers Town Community Association, 150 Ossulston Street London NW1 1EE
Registered Charity number: 292440
Company Limited by Guarantee 1903408

☎ 020 7388 608
jodie@somerstown.org.uk

Somers Town Community Association is a Charity dedicated to providing a meaningful and positive influence at every level of people’s lives.

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Somers Town Community Association, 150 Ossulston Street London NW1 1EE
Registered Charity number: 292440 Company Limited by Guarantee 1903408

☎ 020 7388 608
jodie@somerstown.org.uk

Somers Town Community Association is a Charity dedicated to providing a meaningful and positive influence at every level of people’s lives.

NewslettersDonate