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Difference Between ‘Use-by’ Dates, And ‘Best Before Dates’

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Write an essay of detailing the difference between ‘Use-by’ dates, and ‘Best Before Dates.



The primary aim of this paper is to find out the basic differences between the “use by” dates and “best before” dates marked on the food items. Any food packet contains several labels on them. A proper understanding of all the hidden information behind the labels is necessary for any consumer for the purpose of food safety. The date markings on different food packets are considered the necessary guidelines regarding food items (Diary Dates 2012). The dates guide the consumers regarding the span of time for which the food is fit for consumption before it starts to degrade and become unsafe for consumption. These dates are not only important to the consumers for the selection of a healthier diet but also; they make sure whether the foods are safe for human consumption.

There are two types of date marking on the food items. They are “use by” dates and “best before” dates. It is the responsibility of the food supplier for placing a “use by” or “best before date” on food items (Jones 2016). The "best before" date mark “consists of a period in the order of day, month and year”. The “use by” date mark, also consists of a date, either in the order of day and month, or in the order of day, month and year,” it is also accompanied by the conditions required for the storage, which must be taken into consideration (O'Sullivan 2015).

The "use by" dates are often found on a consumable product. It indicates the recommended date by which, the food item must be consumed. Whereas, the “best before” dates are the "manufacturers estimate" that show that even if the date is over the food is fit for the human consumption provided it is fit (Jones 2016). Once the “use by” date marked on the food item is over, it should not be eaten even if it looks good and smells delicious because it has become poisonous and could put the health of the consumer at risk. The “best before” date on the other hand, is not about the quality or safety of the food. It is the date from when the food might start to degrade in flavor and texture but is not harmful for consumption (Quetiapine best bet in bipolar disorders in the UK 2012).


Not all the food items require carrying the date markings. These is found in "Regulations 4 and 22 and in the list of Annex I" of the legal status of guidance. Foods like "eggs, items those are sold loose, fancy confectionery products, foods that are sold permanently in glass bottles as well as those food items that are sold in seasonal selection packs" do not require date markings (Tuma 2012). Food items on which, "use by" dates is marked, are like ready-prepared salads, smoked fish as well as meat products. Similarly, the “best before” dates are used for canned, dried, ambient, frozen food items. Sometime, the food items that have a shelf life of more than two years like some canned foods do not require the label of best before dates. As in such condition, it becomes, difficult for the food suppliers to give an exact date to the consumers and guide about the longevity of the food (Aribisala 2012). Such, food items may retain their quality for several years and can be very well consumed before it gets spoil.

The only food is the bread, which can have several date marks not only in the United Kingdom but also in the entire world. It can be labeled with a particular "baked on or baked for a date" only if the shelf life is not more than one week (Lane 2012).

There is no particular list of food items, which should carry an exact date mark. In the Food Labeling Regulations (FLR), the legislative framework is that all the food elements that are ready to be delivered to the "ultimate consumer" must carry an exact indication of the durability, which would normally be the "best before" dates (Aribisala 2012).

The “legal status of guidance” is made to provide an overall understanding of the entire process to meet the terms of the legal aspects and requirements regarding the date marks. According to the governmental laws on food safety of the United Kingdom, if the “use by” dates marked on the food item have passed, it is forbidden to be sold. It is considered as a serious crime to sell any food items after the dates are marked as the “use by” date.  If sold, then the people behind this would be punished severely. It is similar to killing a human being. Whereas, even if the “best before” dates have passed the food item can be sold, as still the food has not become harmful and is safe. It could be fit for eating though the flavor might have decreased (Lane 2012). Thus, it is not a serious offense to sell the food item even after the "best before dates." Provided it still complies with "Food Safety Act 1990 and the General Food Regulation 2004" but if the quality of the food item has degraded or it has failed to meet all the expectations of the consumers then the retailer would be at offense (Radin et al., 2012). 

Thus, the conclusion that can be drawn from this paper is that the prime goal of the date markings is to help the consumers to make a safe, healthy and optimum use of the food item. The manufacturer marks these dates. The “use by” dates and “best before” dates indicate the accurate duration in which food is kept under the storage conditions specified on the food packets. As Food Safety, the fundamental right of each in the society is a branch of science that describes the proper management, preparation, and storage of food in the ways that prevent any illness that may originate from food.



Aribisala, O. (2012). Best interests provisions in the UK Mental Capacity Act 2005. The Psychiatrist, 36(12), pp.459-462.

Diary Dates. (2012). Gerodontology, 29(2), pp.159-159.

Jones, M. (2016). Book review: The Unaccountable and Ungovernable Corporation: Companies Use-by Dates Close In. Accounting History, 21(1), pp.131-133.

Lane, I. (2012). Ultracold fluorine production via Doppler cooled BeF. Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 14(43), p.15078.

O'Sullivan, J. (2015). Resource use peak dates distract from real planetary limits. Ecology and Society, 20(2).

Quetiapine best bet in bipolar disorders in the UK. (2012). PharmacoEconomics & Outcomes News, &NA;(655), p.8.

Radin, R., Mitchell, A. and Werler, M. (2012). Predictors of recall certainty of dates of analgesic medication use in pregnancy. Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety, 22(1), pp.25-32.

Tuma, R. (2012). MCRPC. Oncology Times UK, 9(5), pp.13-14.

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