Everyone has seen the use-by or best-before dates listed on purchased foods, but many don’t understand what they actually mean. These dates are a requirement on most packaged foods, and they provide valuable information that is important for both quality and nutrition.
While most people believe that these dates are interchangeable, there is a difference between the two. The use-by date is used on foods that have a short shelf life. Packaged meats, salads, pre-cut fruits, and other refrigerated foods and drinks are labelled with this date to ensure the safety of consuming them. The use-by date lets you know that you need to consume these products before the date listed to protect yourself from food poisoning or eating spoiled foods.
Proper handling of some of these foods can make them safe to eat after the use-by date has passed. Packages will provide directions that ensure safe food handling, including the proper methods of increasing their shelf life. These may include:
- Whether the product can be frozen and the best time to do so. Freezing can increase shelf life well beyond the use-by date.
- Cooking instructions that explain proper temperatures and whether the product should be thawed prior to preparation.
- How long the food will last after thawing
Manufacturers include these instructions to ensure the highest quality and safety of the foods you eat. You should always make sure that you pay attention to these guidelines carefully to avoid health and nutrition problems.
These dates are used on pre-packaged, tinned, frozen, and dried foods that typically have a much longer shelf life. The best-before date tells you the foods will be of the highest quality and nutritional value, when eaten prior to the date listed. Unlike foods with use-by dates, these consumables are generally safe to eat beyond the date. However, they may not provide the same texture or flavour, or have as much nutritional value after the given date.
While these foods have longer shelf lives, you still have to pay attention to the handling instructions to make sure they remain safe. Many of these products may require refrigeration after opening, or storage in an area that is cool and dry. As long as you follow these instructions, you are safe to eat the foods beyond the best-before date.
The reliability of these dates is generally very good when handled properly. In most cases, the best-before and use-by dates provided, are considerably shorter than the actual time the food will be safe. Manufacturers choose dates on the conservative side to make sure you consume the foods when they are at their highest quality.
It is important to understand you also have to use your own judgement when it comes to the foods you eat. If the product smells bad or does not look as it should, you should never eat it, regardless of the date on the package. Foods that have not been stored according to the safety instructions during transit, at the supermarket, or after purchase will spoil, and eating them could result in food poisoning.
When purchasing foods, you should always check the packaging before you buy. If there is any damage, such as tears, dents, or obvious signs of leakage, do not purchase them. These foods may be compromised, and will not last until the dates provided.
Use-by and best-before dates are valuable bits of information that will ensure the quality, safety, and nutritional value of the foods you eat. Pay attention to the dates while shopping, and always make sure that you follow safe handling guidelines.
If you have questions about proper nutrition or for a personalised meal plan, contact your local doctor who will arrange for you to see a dietitian in Sydney. Contact Us Today!