Expiry Date Vs Best Before on Food Items

Packaging date cover

Since the dawn of industrialization, we are both blessed and cursed with packaged food. Pros and cons are a topic for another day but together we will discuss the terms that were brought by these practices. Best before date and expiry date, can these be trusted? and is there a difference between these two? Let’s find out.

Why do we need such dates?

You’d be surprised to know that in earlier days of packaged food, no dates were required to be printed on the products other than the manufacturing date. It’s after many years of rules and some unfortunate health issues that these dates were mandated by law. Nowadays food businesses are legally required to print these dates and almost all prepackaged edibles come with a best before and expiry date.

Expiry Date

Expiration dates

An example of the expiration date on a can.

Expiration date as the name suggests gives consumers a preset date, a warning per se as to when a product is going to be unfit for consumption. These are mandated by law and are strictly enforced, as they suggest that certain foods due to their composition will lose all of their nutritional content and will even become seriously damaging to our health in some scenarios. These dates are applied to dairy products, pharmaceuticals, and any processed food. Usually, it is denoted by EXP and it should be noted that these are only applicable to unopened products stored in conditions suggested by the production company.

Best Before Date

Best before

A canned product’s best before date.

Contrary to expiration dates, the best before date is more like an anticipation of a time period after which the nutritional value of an item starts to fall given that it’s unopened. This doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s unfit for consumption, you can safely eat a product after the expiration of its best before date. However, it won’t be as nutritious as before and may taste slightly different. Just like the expiration date if a product is stored in less ideal conditions it may be subjected to going bad. But unlike the expiry date, these are not forced so heavily and are comparatively lenient. Also, sometimes it is denoted as BB or BBE.

Other related terms to look for

  • Use/Consume by date: This is for products that usually last a week, such as bread and pasteurized milk. It is more inclined with expiry dates, as it is done as a safety protocol.
  • Sell-by date: These are mainly for the shopkeepers but it’s good to be aware. This print strictly prohibits a seller to sell any product after the mentioned date.

It can get confusing at times to know the difference between these two terms as they seem almost similar. As someone who’s been shopping for so long being unaware of these terms, it sure is enlightening.

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