What do those dates really mean?

Are you one of the - unfortunately - many who throw away food as soon as the “Best before” date has passed? It turns out that many people are confusing the actual meaning of the dates - resulting in lots of good food ending up in the bin. 


Let’s start with the easy one


Food with the print “Use by” cannot be used after the specific date. It’s important to take this date seriously, as you can potentially get very ill due to the bacteria in the food. 


The “Use by” print is mostly used on meat and fish - and you must throw it out as soon as the printed date had passed. You won’t necessarily be able to smell or taste if the food has gone bad. The bacteria in this type of food don’t always appear in the form of mold or bad smell.


Therefore, you have to throw away the food. 


If you know that you won’t be able to eat the food before it reaches the “Use by” date, you can pop it in the freezer. This way, it doesn’t go to waste. Just be sure to use it quickly after defrosting it.  


The next one is a bit more tricky


The print that causes the most confusion is the “Best before”. Contrary to what many people think, you don’t have to throw this food away after the printed date. It can usually be used just fine after this date. 


“Best before” is meant as a guide, and in many cases the milk, butter, eggs, spaghetti, oil, flower, spices etc. can be used without any issues after the “Best before” date. 


You just need to use your senses to determine if the food is still good. So look, smell and taste the food, and you’ll be able to tell if it can still be used. 


  • If there’s mold on the food, you have to throw it away. If there are brown or soft spots on your fruits and veggies, you can just cut them off, and they are good as new. 


  • Food, which has gone bad, usually starts to smell. If it smells fine, you’re fine to eat it. If it smells sour or sharp, throw it away. 


  • If you can’t see or smell anything on the food, you can taste it just to be sure. If it tastes fine, then there’s nothing wrong with it, and you can use it as you normally would. 


So you can usually see, smell or taste if the food, which has passed the “Best before” date, is still good to use. Hopefully, this will prevent you from throwing away perfectly good food - and we like that! 



Do you need inspiration for minimizing your food waste? Have a look here.

Sisse Hansen

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