Dear Consumer’s Voice
I would like to know the difference between “Best Before”, “Sell By” and “Expiry Date”.
The Labelling of Prepackaged Foods Regulations define what all of these terms mean and you can see a full description of each on our blog.
However in simple terms the “Best before” and “Expiry” or “Use by” dates are the dates before which the food should be in an edible condition.
The “Sell by” date is the last day the store can sell the item.
When you’re in a store, you certainly shouldn’t buy anything that is at or beyond any of these dates.
If you do see such an item it’s your right (and I believe your duty) to tell the store manager immediately to help protect other consumers.
Personally I wouldn’t even buy something that’s expiring within a couple of days, particularly if it’s a high-risk item because I don’t know how long it’s going to stay in my fridge before I eat it.
You should always think carefully about how long you’re likely to store something before buying it.
You should also use some common sense with “use by”, “expiry” and “best before” dates.
It depends very much on what the food is.
If it’s meat, fish or poultry then be very careful about the dates.
On the other hand if it’s an apple then you can be less fussy.
Either way, use your eyes and your nose with ALL foodstuffs.
Millions of years of evolution have given us senses that can often tell us when things we want to put inside our bodies are likely to harm us.
Ask your partner, relative, housemate or whoever is standing close enough, “Does that smell OK to you?”
before you cook or eat it.
So read the dates and take care with them but above all trust your senses.
If in doubt don’t eat it.