For Food Labelling Date Labels Positive ID Labelling are coming to the rescue by continuing with our safety blogs, this time we are explaining use by, best before, sell by and display until date labels.
What is the difference between use by, sell by and best before? How should they be treated differently?
The FSA (Food Standard Agency), for many different reasons, are trying to clamp down on those of us who get them confused, and even launched a Food Safety Week 2012. Don’t worry it was the 11-17 June and so we all escaped it unscathed. But they are seriously concerned. We will do our best to give them a helping hand.
– This is arguably the most important date label because after the ‘Use By’ date the food could potentially become harmful, and nobody really wants that. The FSA reckons that: because of the rising food prices, more of us are eating our foods after this date because we do not want to throw as much out or buy more food.
‘Use by’ dates are normally found on foods that spoil quickly, and once spoilt could become potentially harmful; such as meats, fish and dairy products. Many of us just give the food a look over, a quick sniff, and because we are all health experts consume anyway.
According to the FSA, bugs such as E. coli and salmonella do not smell or leave an obvious aesthetic impediment, and so therefore we are still leaving our selves at risk to harm.
Looks to me that ‘Use by’ dates should be taken reasonably seriously, but if you are going to gamble, make sure you give it the sniff test.
If it smells bad, it is bad. However it does not necessarily work the other way around.
– If a product has a sell by date on, then this date should be considered only for the purpose of the employees. This date allows the employee to be able to determine what to do with a certain product.
The ‘Sell By’ date, similarly to the ‘Best Before’ date, does not refer to the safety of the food but instead to the quality, and so it is harder to judge a product by the ‘Sell By’ date. You should not worry if you are consuming a product after this date since it is determined completely by the store in which the product is sold, not by an independent safety company.
This generally means that the high end stores will have a shorter sell by date life, because they want all their products to remain as fresh as possible to maintain their high reputation.
Many stores then still sell products on or after their ‘Sell By’ date, just at a reduced price. ‘Sell by’ dates are normally found along side either a ‘Use by’ or a ‘Best Before’ date. Which one of the two is determined by the product.
The best before date refers to the date up to which a product can be consumed before the quality begins to decline.
Similarly to the ‘Sell by’ date, it is completely determined by each store, and therefore the reputation they want to uphold. Going over the ‘best before’ date is not necessarily harmful to your health; it just might mean that the product may have lost some of its quality.
The main concern of the FSA is people confusing the ‘Best Before’ dates or the ‘Use By’ dates. If people treat a ‘Best Before’ date as a ‘Use By’ date, which a lot of people do, then there is too much waste where people are throwing away nice food when it is not necessary.
If people treat a ‘Use By’ date as a ‘Best Before’ date, then this is where the danger lies. Most of the time people are fine, and do not get ill because the food is ok, but all it would take is one bad batch of bacon and you could get sick.
The worst thing about that is that you could be put off bacon for a long time!
The thing to remember is that the labels are different for a reason, normally based on how harmful the food could be.
Try not to waste food, and more importantly, try not to poison yourself.
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