Best Before, Use By and Food Dates Explained

When making decisions as to whether to eat “out of date” food you can ignore both sell by and display until dates. The dates you want to pay attention to are best before and use by.

The Rule of Thumb

Food that has passed its best before is safe to eat, but the flavour and texture may change over time. Use your own common sense and preferences to assess it. A sniff and taste test is the best way to do this.

Food that has passed its use-by date is not safe to eat.

Best before

Best before dates are an indicative guide of when the quality of food or drink will start to change. They are not to do with safety. Food that has passed its best before date is safe to eat.

Best before should be considered a rough guide rather than a strict rule. There is no reason to throw away food that goes past its best before date, it is perfectly safe to eat and will often taste just as good. Best before dates can give a misleading impression that food is no longer suitable for consumption, meaning lots of consumers will throw out their food after the best before date has passed when they don't need to.

In Canada 63% of the food Canadians throw away could have been eaten. For the average Canadian household that amounts to 140 kilograms of wasted food per year – at a cost of more than CAD$1,300 per year!

Canada sits in 12th place as the biggest per capita waster of food, according to a January 2021 report on, a Hong Kong-based environmental non-profit and non-partisan think-tank.

In the United States Each year, 108 billion pounds of food is wasted. That equates to 130 billion meals and more than $408 billion in food thrown away each year. Shockingly, nearly 40% of all food in America is wasted. That’s USD$1600 worth of produce per family is wasted.

If you want to reduce your food waste footprint, don’t throw out food just because it has passed its best before! To find out how food changes in taste and texture over time, visit our product specific pages detailing how long after the best before date you can eat different foods.

Use your common sense and do a taste test

A lot of experts claim that food dates have created a culture where consumers don't make decisions about their food based on their own knowledge and common sense, but defer to dates presented by manufacturers.

This makes sense, to an extent. Best before dates should be used as a rough guide to help you get a sense of how old the food is. But since best before dates are not exact, consumers can use their own judgement and knowledge to make decisions as to what they want to eat.

It all comes down to flavour and texture, and ultimately this is about personal preference. If you aren't sure whether you should eat a product past its best before, just try it. It is safe to eat so you won't cause yourself any harm and you can decide for yourself whether the taste is good enough for you.

Remember that foods taste different in recipes too. Other ingredients can boost flavour where it may have reduced a little, meaning you can still make use of the food in the cupboard and help reduce your contribution to the problem of food waste.