The truth about ‘best before’ dates

Published: Sunday 15th March 2015 by The News Editor

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Are ‘best before’ dates something to live by or ignore?

Many of us fling food in the bin once its best before date has been and gone. But should we? Does ‘best before’ not mean just that, and that eating it on or after that date means it might just be OK?

Dan Cluderay and Andy Needham are in no doubt. Their unique website Approved Food (, which recently featured on ITV’s Bargain Fever Britain, is a clever concept – but one that could divide food-lovers.

The products they sell are all past their best before date, which Dan explains is just the “manufacturer’s estimate that the premium quality of its product may start to deteriorate”.

While the website’s not made him a millionaire yet, it is taking a stance on the ever-troubling issue of food waste in Britain.

He says: “Every year in the UK, we throw away 7.2 million tonnes of food and drink, most of which could have been eaten. So think carefully before throwing away food past its ‘best before’.”

Based in Sheffield, Approved Food ships out more than 2,000 orders per week around the country, and is starting to take off in Germany too.

Recently, popular products have included 70g pots of Mornflake Superfast Raisin Honey and Almond Granola Pot for just 29p (saving £1; BBE February 1) and Wagamama’s Fragrant Coconut Ginger and Lemongrass Stir Fry Sauce for 39p (down from £1.50; BBE February 11), while a pack of six 250ml cans of Ocean Spray Cranberry Classic for 99p is down from £4.80 and was BBE 31 August 2014.

They don’t, crucially, sell chilled or frozen products that have a ‘use by’ date on, so there’s no chance of getting a tummy bug here. In fact, Leeds Metropolitan University tested food for bacteria and found no nasties.

Just to recap then, so we all know what we’re talking about, in the world of food labelling, there are three key dates. The wording varies but roughly speaking, these are: sell by, use by and best before. And what exactly do they mean…?


‘Best before’ dates are about quality, not safety, says Cluderay. When the date is passed, it doesn’t mean that the food will be harmful, but it might begin to lose its flavour and texture.


Don’t use any food or drink after the end of the ‘use by’ date on the label, even if it looks and smells fine, he advises. This is because using it after this date could put your health at risk. If a food can be frozen, its life can be extended beyond the use by date (providing you follow any advice on the pack, such as ‘freeze on day of purchase’).


Date marks such as ‘display until’ or ‘sell by’ often appear near or next to the ‘best before’ or ‘use by’. These are instructions for shop staff, Cluderay adds, not for shoppers. The important dates for you to look for are the ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ dates.

So next time you go to bin something simply because it’s past its best, you might want to think again…

Copyright Press Association 2015

Published: Sunday 15th March 2015 by The News Editor

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