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What’s the Truth Behind Best Before Dates?

Food Waste Has Been an On-Going Problem Way Back Before We Can Remember. Collective Investigated What the Truth Actually Is Behind the Best Before Dates and Where the Line Should Be Drawn When Food Really Is Bin-Worthy.

Food waste is still a huge problem within the UK, this could be down to the public not understanding best before date entirely. Here are some top tips we have found when it comes to understanding best before labels:

  • Don’t trust the sniff test! If food smells and looks fine after its use by date, it doesn’t particularly mean it’s safe to eat. You cannot see, smell or taste the germs that cause food poisoning.
  • Guidance from the UK’s Food Standards Agency says “best-before” dates are supposed to tell the consumer more about “quality than safety” – indicating when a product may begin to lose its flavour and texture, but not that the product becomes dangerous to eat.
  • If you are a chef who serves residents or customers, don’t put their health in danger and serve foods that you don’t believe are safe.

Foods That You Can Eat After Their Best Before Dates:

  • Milk: Pasteurised milk will keep 50 per cent longer if you store it at a lower temperature. Try storing at the back of the fridge rather than the fridge door.
  • Canned foods: Extend the shelf life of canned products by storing them in a cool and dark area.
  • Eggs: Eggs can last for three to five weeks – have you heard of the egg test? Pop it in a glass of water – if it floats it’s okay!
  • Sugary foods: Anything with a large amount of sugar, such as jam or honey, is safe to be consumed. Honey never really expires!
  • Meat: If the meat seems to look and smell okay, it’s probably good to go – but make sure you’re 100% sure of your decision.
  • Crisps: While they may have gone soft, crisps are highly processed and loaded with salt so are safe to be consumed. They can be eaten three weeks after the best by date – but if you like the crunch, eat them quick!
  • Biscuits: Like crisps, biscuits are also highly processed. (Top tip: if they taste soft or soggy simply pop them in the oven to get them crunchy again. These can be eaten two months after the best by date). 
  • Dry pasta: Dry goods such as uncooked pasta, if stored in airtight containers, can keep indefinitely.
  • Bread: When you keep it in the freezer, it will last for ages. Simply grab the slices you need as and when.
  • Packaged salad: As long as your salad leaves haven’t gone mouldy (wilted and mouldy are very different), you can save them with a decent wash.
  • Cheese: Hard cheeses, such as cheddar, are safe to eat after their best before dates. Even if it’s gained spots of mould, cut those parts off and enjoy the rest.

Foods People Waste the Most:


Bread 32%, Vegetables 24%, Potatoes 24%, Fruit 20%, Cereal products 17%

Source: UK government

Expert Points to Understanding Best Before Dates & Avoid Food Waste :

  • Ignore best-before dates, they indicate when the manufacturer thinks the product is best, not when the food is past being safe
  • Use-by dates are important particularly with meat – the smell test comes in to play here
  • Shop in small amounts and more frequently, plan your meals around what you purchase
  • Avoid BOGOFs or only buy them if you can freeze the extra product, no excess food needed
  • Plan meals with your friends and family, the more the merrier
  • Use your freezer more
  • Never buy salad in bags, it isn’t good value and once opened it goes off quickly!

Source: Food writer and broadcaster Stefan Gates

To find out more information and to gain professional advice, visit the Food Standards Agency. If you aren’t sure on whether to serve/eat something that is past its best before date, throw it – don’t even think twice, it isn’t worth it!