A GUIDE FOR “USE BY” AND “BEST BEFORE” DATES
 

 

Date marking, that is having either a “best before” or a “use by” date, provides a guide to consumers on the shelf life of the food. This means the length of time a food should keep.

To make it easier for consumers to distinguish between those foods that need to be eaten before a certain time for safety reasons and those that do not, these foods are date marked differently. Foods that must be eaten before a certain time for safety reasons are date marked with a “use by” date and these foods, such as infant formula, should not be sold or eaten after this date.

Other foods will be marked with “best before” date. It may still be safe to eat these foods after the “best before” date but they may have lost some quality. The majority of foods will be marked with a “best before” date.

Foods that have a “best before” date can continue to be sold after that date provided the food is fit for human consumption. Foods that have a “use by” date are prohibited from being sold after this date because the food may then pose a safety risk.

The manufacturer of the food is responsible for placing a “best before” date, as applicable, on food. The only food that can have a different date on it is bread, which can be labelled with a “baked on” or “baked for” date if it’s shelf life is less than seven days. Foods that have a shelf life of two years or longer, for example canned food, do not need to be labelled with a “best before” date. This is because these foods will keep for many years before they spoil.