Understanding ‘Use By’ and ‘Best Before’ dates

Do you know the difference between a ‘Use By’ and ‘Best Before’ date?It is very important for food handlers to understand the difference between ‘Use By’ and ‘Best Before’ dates that are marked on food.

‘Use By’ and ‘Best Before’ dates are compulsory under the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (the Code).  Unless exempt under the Code, all packaged food with a shelf life of two (2) years or less must be marked with a date.

If food must not be consumed after a certain date for health and safety reasons, the ‘Use By’ form of date mark must be used. A ‘Best Before’ date would be used for shelf stable foods such as biscuits and confectionery, frozen foods, most raw foods that will be cooked before being eaten (eg. meat, chicken, fish) or foods that will noticeably spoil before becoming a safety issue.

Foods that are labelled with a ‘Use By’ date, cannot be sold after that date has passed. To protect all members of the public, this also includes giving away food to charitable or community organisations. This also means you cannot use food that has passed its ‘Use By’ date when cooking and preparing meals

Food marked with a ‘Best Before’ date can still be sold after the expiry of that date, provided it is safe and suitable for consumption.

As a food handler you have a legal responsibility to ensure that foods that have passed their ‘Use By’ date are not sold or given to customers.