Best Before versus Used By date guide

From the Food Authority NSW website:

Best before and used by dates

Food labels have date marks to tell us about safe shelf life. These marks help us tell how long food can be kept before it begins to deteriorate. All food with a shelf life of less than 2 years must be date marked.


'best before': foods are still safe to eat after the date as long as they are not damaged, deteriorated or perished

  • The 'best before' date simply indicates that the product may lose some of its quality after this date passes.
  • Foods can be legally sold after a 'best before' date as long as they are not damaged, deteriorated or perished.
  • You can expect these foods to retain their colour, taste, texture and flavour as long as they are stored correctly.
  • Common 'best before' foods include canned foods, cereals, biscuits, sauces, chocolate, sugar, flour and frozen foods.

'use-by': foods must be eaten or thrown away by the date

  • After this date foods may be unsafe to eat even if they look fine because the nutrients in the food may become unstable or a build-up of bacteria may occur.
  • It is illegal to sell foods after a 'use-by' date.
  • Common 'use-by' foods include milk, sliced ham and shaved meats.

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