The differences between ‘sell by’, ‘use by’, ‘best before’ and ‘expires on’


June 27, 2018

The differences between ‘sell by’, ‘use by’, ‘best before’ and ‘expires on’ |

Have you ever been a little confused by these date stamps on your food and produce? You are certainly not alone. This article provides a basic distinction between ‘sell by date’, ‘use by date, ‘best by/ best before’ and ‘expires on’.

‘Sell by’

The date stamp ‘sell by’, it often restricted to perishable foods like fresh seafood, meat, chicken, milk and dairy products or even ready-to-eat salads, meals, sandwiches and wraps bought at the deli section of your neighbourhood Shoprite, SPAR or Hubmart. It guides the supermarket to know the latest date to get the product off the shelf and into the hands of the consumer.

The stamp does not mean that it expires on the ‘sell by’ day so it depend on what the product is and how you handle it when you get home. Therefore you should use it within a few days or preserve it properly.

‘Use by’

If you eat a product after this date, you may not fall sick but the manufacturer cannot be held liable for any loss in quality. These are usually found on perishable products.

‘Best by’ and ‘best before’

These terms practically mean the same thing.  They are used for foods that have a longer shelf life than the ‘sell bys’ and the ‘use bys’. The dates are usually depicted as BBE: Best By/Before (the) End of the particular month and year stated.

It simply means that the manufacturer guarantees that the food product would be both safe and fresh to eat by the said dates if it was stored under the right condition and the packaging has not been tampered with. This does not mean that the products actually expire by that date but there may be loss of quality and spoilage after a reasonable time period.

This period depends on the type of product. It can vary from a week. For instance, many canned foods or soft drinks would be fine to consume, even a few years after the BBE when unopened and intact. They may taste a little flat or off, though but would usually not render you ill.

‘Expires on’

This date gives you a definite date by which the food is no longer considered safe. This is usually restricted to specific foods and supplements like baby food, meal and nutritional supplements and some standardized foods formulated for special diets. Eating these types of foods after the recommended date can result in illness.

Final word

None of the terms ‘sell by’, ‘use by’, ‘best by’, or ‘best before’ mean that the products expire on the said date. They only serve as guidelines for retailers and consumers to know how soon to use the products or preserve them properly to avoid a major loss of quality or even spoilage. Foods with expiration dates should never be consumed after the said date.

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