How do Use By Date and Best Before Date differ?

Do you know the difference between a use by date and a best by date on food products? And what should you do if a use by date is not printed on your food?

How do Use by Date and Best Before Date differ?

Which is the one to follow and what does each date mean?

If you look at many packaged items in the grocery store, you’ll probably notice that there’s a use by date and a best before date.

You might be wondering how the two dates differ. Which is the one to follow and what does each date mean?

Another thing to consider is foods which don’t have either of these dates on them. You might not be sure how you can figure these dates out on your own if they’re not marked.

DESIblitz guides you through the use by and best before dates and the differences between them.

The Use By Date


If you’re only going to remember one date, make it the use by date. The use by date is basically what it sounds like; the date you need to use the food by.

To follow the use by date properly, you’ll need to consume the food before the date labelled. You can either eat it before this date or freeze it.

Freezing the food before the use by date will preserve it for a longer time than the use by date. This means that you can ensure none of your food goes to waste. If you don’t think you’ll eat something before it will pass the use by date, it’s a good idea to freeze it.

It’s important to follow the use by date because it’s indicative of how safe it is to consume the food. Once a food has passed its use by date, it runs the risk of becoming spoiled. This means that you can run a higher risk of developing an illness from the food.

You’re more likely to find a use by date on food items which are going to spoil more easily. This will include foods like meats, dairy and freshly prepared meals such as salads.

So if you find that your food has passed the use by date, you need to be wary of consuming it. Keep in mind that the food will likely have spoiled, and spoiled food can cause illnesses.

The Best Before Date


The best before date differs from the use by date because it is not indicative of safety.

If a food passes its best by date, it can still be safe to eat. The best before date shows you when the manufacturer of the food recommends that you eat it.

If you have food which has passed its best by date, you can still eat it.

It will simply not taste as good as it would before this date. Because of this, you will likely find many foods in shops which have been reduced have passed their best by date.

The best by date will, as will the use by date, often come with instructions. This will usually include how to store the food and what to do after opening it.

Most instances of a use by date and best by date will take this sort of usage into consideration.

So if you see that a food has passed its best by date, there’s no need to throw it away. All you’ll need to do is take into consideration that it might not taste its best.

A food which has passed its best by date is, however, perfectly safe.

What about foods which have neither?


Many Desi people tend to still buy groceries and meat from Desi shops. These foods will often be freshly prepared or purchased from smaller manufacturers. This means that they may not have a use by date or a best by date printed on them.

Even if a food does not have a use by date printed, it can still spoil as easily as food which does. Therefore, it is important to find out what the use by date is. For example, if you purchase meat from a butcher what dates are applicable to the meat you buy. Likewise, you should ask the shopkeeper the same regarding fruits and vegetables.


Since these foods may not have dates on them it can make it difficult to easily determine when to use them by. You may only notice when the food has clearly gone rancid.

If you are unable to find out the use by date of a food, you can always look it up. For example, eggs can last approximately 3-5 weeks when refrigerated. Chicken, however, can only last about 2 days. 

Also, other foods like mithai (sweets) ideally need to be consumed within 2-3 days of purchase. Unless you put them in the fridge, which can keep them fresher for longer.

What is safe to eat?


Always check the packaging of your food for a use by date. If there is a best by date, ideally you should consume the food before then. Freezing it before the best by date will keep it preserved at a higher quality.

The crucial date to stick to is the use by date. Do not consume the food after this date as this is the date designed to show when the food will begin to spoil.

If the food you buy has no use by date, it’s important to find out what it is. Ask the shopkeeper if they know what it is or if they are able to find out, and make sure you stick to it. If you are unable to find out from the shopkeeper, you may need to look it up yourself.

Finding handy charts like this one can help you stick to the dates. This is only a guide, however, and it’s best to find out the use by date from the manufacturer if you can.

There’s no need to worry, however. If you’re about to reach the use by date and don’t want to waste the food, you can always freeze it for later.

Aimee is an International Politics graduate and a foodie who loves being daring and trying new things. Passionate about reading and writing with aspirations to be a novelist, she keeps herself inspired by the saying: “I am, therefore I write.”

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