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Best Before Date vs Use By Date – avoid food waste by knowing the difference!

Updated: Jul 7, 2023

Food waste accounts for a tremendous 8-10% of the worldwide carbon emissions, so it is worth trying hard to reduce it 😊!

The last thing we want though, is to eat a food which became harmful...

So how can we know what we can have and not have?

Food poisoning can be caused by harmful bacteria, which spread with 4 things:

- water,

- temperature,

- food, and

- time.

When we remove the moisture, for example by drying fruits, or with dry pasta or rice, it is very unlikely that bacteria spreads.

When we remove the food, bacteria cannot grow, as it has nothing to eat.

Equally if the temperature is too high, commonly more than 75 degrees during 2 minutes, then most of the harmful are killed, while sinking the temperature below 4 degrees will significantly reduce their reproduction rates.

The fourth parameter for bacterias to grow is time – to limit the risk of food poisoning, different types of food which are considered like “high risk food” (like eggs, milk, meat, fish…) need to be sold displaying a USE BY date.

The message is clear here: consume the product the latest on the use by date. After this, the food producer does not guarantee anymore the freshness and safety of the product. While some might argue that the food industry is very precautious and you can eat a yogurt 2 weeks after its use by date, the meaning of this date from a legal perspective is to warn that a food could make you sick if consumed after the indicated date.

The Best Before Date are completely different: these dates are normally far further in the future when the food is produced, and doesn’t warn against any food danger – it acts more like an indication about the timeframe in which

the food shall rather be eaten for quality purposes (taste and texture mostly…) but as long as the food hasn’t been damaged (ex: put moisture back on a dry food, etc…) then it stays edible! No need to throw away food which Best Before Date is expired – it is very probably still delicious and certainly not dangerous. It can have lost in quality (ex: nuts can get rancid, chocolate could get crumbly instead of smooth, spic

es might loose some intensity…) but doesn’t represent a health threat. Again, if the other bacteria growing parameters mentioned above have not acted on the food dramatically –i.e. if the food is kept in its can, or away from any humidity, and did not go through massive temperature changes, there is nothing to fear. Before you throw away something, use your natural tools: your smell, your eyes, and you will be able to take the right decision!

At Filling Good, we are all against food waste, hence we try to inform about the difference between “use by” and “best before” dates to our customers and volunteers, and also make decision on our stock (selling or not selling) depending on these criterias. Concerning the “use by” dates it is quite easy as we do not sell any high risk food. As for the low risk food we sell, we would remove from sale a food that is not palatable anymore after its best before date, but leave it on sale if we know that the quality will not be impacted, like for beans or pasta typically.

So next time that you are sorting out your cupboard, look twice before throwing away fod beyond its best before date!

And if Food waste is something that you have at heart, please check following charity and write to your MP: Tackle the Cost of Living Crisis Using Surplus Food - FareShare.

Indeed, over 14.5 million people are living in poverty in the UK, including 4.3 million children. In a wealthy country like the UK, too many people are reliant on others generosity simply to eat. The UK’s rate of food poverty is among the worst in Europe. Signing the petition above is a way to encourage the government to act on both food poverty and food waste - a win win for the people and the planet!

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