What Does ‘Best By’ Date Mean?

The ‘Best By’ date, also known as the ‘Best Before’ date, is something we commonly see on the packaging of our daily food products. But what exactly does this term mean, and how does it relate to the safety and quality of our food? This article will attempt to demystify this term in simple language for greater understanding.

Firstly, it’s crucial to clarify that ‘Best By’ dates are not safety dates – they have nothing to do with food poisoning or foodborne illnesses. Instead, they are the manufacturer’s estimates of how long the food will be at its peak quality. This means that consuming a product after the ‘Best By’ date does not necessarily mean it’s expired or unfit for consumption.

Imagine your favourite packet of chips. The producer marks it with a ‘Best By’ date of October 30. This doesn’t mean the chips will “go bad” or harmful to consume on October 31. It simply means that until October 30, the chips will maintain their best flavor and texture as intended by the manufacturer. Post this date, they might not be as crisp or tasty, but they will still be safe to eat for a certain period, provided they have been stored correctly.

It’s key to differentiate ‘Best By’ dates from ‘Use By’ and ‘Expiration’ dates, as they have different implications. ‘Use By’ dates are more urgent and typically found on perishable items like meat, dairy, or fresh produce. These products become unsafe to eat after the ‘Use By’ date. On the other hand, ‘Best By’ dates, commonly found on canned goods, pasta, and condiments, indicate when a product might begin to lose its optimal quality but not necessarily its safety.

However, relying solely on these dates isn’t the most foolproof approach. Along with the date, consumers should use their judgement by considering the look, smell, and taste of the food. If a product is past its ‘Best By’ date, but looks, smells, and tastes good, it will likely be safe to consume. Contrarily, if it’s within its ‘Best By’ frame but gives off an off smell or conducts a weird texture, it might be safer to toss it away.

While it’s important to minimize food waste, safety must always be the top priority. It’s always beneficial to trust your senses and your judgement rather than blindly following the ‘Best By’ date. Lastly, do ensure proper storage of your food items as it significantly impacts their shelf-life, quality, and safety.