In a nutshell: The date on the label makes it clear how long the food can be kept before it starts to spoil or can no longer be eaten. The "Use By" date is about food safety, and the "Best before" date is about food quality, not safety.
- A 'use by' date on food is about food safety. The food can be eaten until the 'use by' date but not after. 'Use by' dates are seen on foods that go off quickly, such as meat products or ready-to-eat salads.
- A 'best before' date is about food quality but not safety. The food will be safe to eat after this date but may not be at its best. Its flavour and texture might not be as good as before. 'Best before' dates appear on a wide range of foods including frozen, dried and canned foods. Nonetheless, consumers should avoid eating spoiled foods.
After the food package is opened
After purchasing food, the principle of first-in, first-out should be followed. Once the packaging of the food is opened, the date mark may become irrelevant. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for storage time and conditions after opening, e.g. 'refrigerate after opening at or below 4oC and finish within 7 days'