Your Comprehensive Guide To ‘Best Before’ Dates And What They Actually Mean
If you’ve ever had food poisoning, you likely pay very close attention to the “best before” dates on food. I absolutely hate throwing out food and food waste, but if I notice meat or a dairy product that’s even a day or two past its best before date, I’m quick to toss it. However, have you noticed that in addition to best before dates, there are also “sell by,” “best by,” and “expires on” phrases? If you’re wondering what it all really means, we’re going to help you out.
Due to the confusion regarding the different forms of best before dates, the Food Marketing Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association announced that they have implemented more standardized labels in regards to expiration dates. Now, the majority of food will be limited to just two labels: “use by” and “best if used by.”
So, what do those two labels mean? Well, “use by” applies to the few products that are highly perishable and/or have a food safety concern over time; these products should be consumed by the date listed on the package – and disposed of after that date. And “best if used by” describes product quality, where the product may not taste or perform as expected but is safe to use or consume. That certainly clears things up a bit, doesn’t it?
“Eliminating confusion for consumers by using common product date wording is a win-win because it means more products will be used instead of thrown away in error,” explains Jack Jeffers, Vice President of Quality at Dean Foods, which led GMA’s work on this issue. “It’s much better that these products stay in the kitchen – and out of landfills.”
So there you have it, folks! The next time you’re wondering whether or not the food you’re about to eat is safe or not, these simplified labels should be able to inform you. Cheers to less food waste!