Date labels come in two main types: consumers should stick to the use by date labels to ensure that they are eating safe food. Best Before date labels should be used in a less strict manner, as eating a few days later than the best before shouldn’t cause any health problems. Also, consumers should completely ignore display until and sell by date labels as they are sometimes confusing and are not helpful to consumers!
Use by date labels tend to be only used on food that goes off quickly, such as meat products and ready-prepared salads. Most of the products will be in chilled cabinets in the supermarket. After the end of the ‘use by’ date on the label, food should not be consumed even if it looks and smells fine. Use By date labels are only for safety so using it after this date could put your health at risk.
For the ‘use by’ date to be a valid guide, you must carefully follow storage instructions such as ‘keep in a refrigerator’. If the food is not stored correctly, the food will spoil more quickly and you may risk food poisoning. Use by dates can be extended by freezing the food. Then the food must be eaten in the 24 hours after frozen. Instructions on the packaging are very important and should be followed to ensure that no food poisoning occurs or food spoiling quickly.
Best before dates are purely used or quality purposes. Unlike use by dates, food can be consumed after the date stated. The date is used as a guideline as to when the food may lose its flavour, texture or quality. The food should not be harmful a few days after the best before date. However, you shouldn’t eat eggs after the ‘best before’ date. This is because eggs can contain salmonella bacteria, which could start to multiply after this date. Best before dates appear on a wide range of frozen, dried, tinned and other foods.
Similar to the use by date labels, the best before date will only be accurate if the food is stored according to the instructions on the label, such as ‘store in a cool dry place’ or ‘keep in the fridge once opened’.
Display until/Sell by
These dates are entirely for management and stock control only. They are disliked as they can cause confusion as some consumers mistake them for best before and use by labels. Display until is used so staff can rotate stock and remove them from shelves as it becomes close to the end of its life. It also ensures that the oldest stock is sold first.
Display until labels are often used in conjunction with use by labels so the consumer can see that the food is taken off the shelves before it starts deteriorating. Also, best before dates don’t tend to be used with display until as best before dates would be earlier than the display until as best before dates refer to the quality unlike use by dates which refer to safety.
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