Best Before and Expiration Date: Is There A Difference?

Saturday, August 20, 2011 Stef dela Cruz 0 Comments

How many times have you looked at a pack of food, seen a best before date, and wondered to yourself, What does it mean? And how different is the “best before date” from the “expiry date”? It’s about time you found out what the best before and the expiration date mean. Don’t risk food poisoning or wasting food just because you don’t know the difference between the expiry date and the best before date!

All food, whether with preservatives or not, has a shelf life. Shelf life is the amount of time that any certain food item may be consumed. Shelf life labels, such as the expiry date or the best before date, should be indicated in perishable goods as a safety measure.

best before

Take note, however, that these shelf life labels are usually dependent on correct handling of food. If you failed to refrigerate a certain food product and the label says it should be stored inside the fridge, then the expiry date on is no good.

But what is the difference between an expiration date and a best before date? A best before date, also known as a best by date, is a guide that tells you until when a certain food product is likely to taste great. Beyond the best by date, the food may still be edible, but it will no longer be as crisp or tasty or fresh.

Do not confuse the best by date with the expiry date, also known as the expiration date. An expiry date indicates when a certain food item or drug is expected to no longer be good for consumption (for food) or no longer effective/ safe (for drugs).

Of course, all these dates are estimates. None of them are accurate. They are usually estimated with a margin of error in favor of safety, which means that some food products that have gone beyond their best before date or expiry date can still be eaten – and this is better than an estimated date that may save more food from being wasted yet increases the risk for food poisoning or toxic effects.

Stef dela CruzAbout the blogger
Stef dela Cruz is a doctor and writer. She received the 2013 Award for Health Media from the Department of Health. She maintains a health column in Health.Care Magazine and contributes to The Manila Bulletin. Add her to your circles.