What do these food labeling terms mean?

Several labels are given to foods, but they often confuse many people and force them to throw food away. 

Here is a simple guide to the most common food labels:

What does ‘Best before’ mean?

‘Best before’ labels relate to the food quality, taste, appearance, flavor, texture, nutritional value, and so on. ‘Best before’ is often used on canned (tin foods), or other packages containing cooked, frozen, roasted, dried, salted, or smoked foods. If you store the food correctly and follow the instructions on the package, it should be safe to eat it even if the ‘Best before’ date is out. However, when you open the can, you should consume the content within the specified time frame. It is possible to see ‘Best before’ labels on the shelves of grocery shops even after the dates are out.

What does ‘Use by’ mean?

This is seen on foods that go bad quickly such as roasted chicken, smoked or dried fish, pre-made salads, dairy or poultry products, and so on. They are highly perishable foods. Their freshness is often kept longer in refrigerators. They are NOT safe for eating after the dates are out. They may look good and smell ok, but they pose a health risk. Foods in this category can cause food poisoning. They should NOT be seen on market shelves, and surely not be consumed after the dates are out.

Date labels on foods
Date labels on foods

What does ‘Sell by’ or ‘Display until’ mean?

Unlike the ‘Best before’ and ‘Use by’ labels, these are not legal requirements. Supermarkets or local markets use them to help their staff with replacing and restocking activities. Ignore them and pay more attention to the ‘Use by’ date. What about Milk? CLICK HERE!

What does ‘Expiry date’ mean?

In some countries, this label is only found on baby foods or instant formula. It is not safe to use such products after the dates on the products.

Food producers and manufacturers are responsible for the safety of their products, regardless of any dates they print on their products. At the same time, it is in your interest to make sure that you observe the dates on food packages, especially those of poultry, dairy, and fresh produce, as they go off much more quickly. Food can go bad even if it is stored in the fridge.