The best before and use by date labels are the most widely used types of date labelling on food in Europe. This article explains the difference between these types of date label and which food products they are commonly used on. By understanding and paying attention to the different types of date labelling, we can avoid getting food poisoning and reduce our food waste while also saving money.
Different types of date labels serve different purposes. The best before date is about the quality of the food, while the use by date is about safety. In the EU, these labels are regulated to ensure that retailers use the appropriate one for their products. However, it has been estimated that up to 10% of the 88 million tonnes of food waste that is generated in the EU every year are somehow linked to date labelling, for example because of poor legibility or misinterpretation of the meaning of the use by and best before dates.1,2 A better understanding of what the different labels mean could help prevent this food from being unnecessarily thrown away.