Expiry dates explained - 'Use by' / 'Best before'

Confusion around labelling is a major factor in the massive waste of safe, edible food in homes. 10% of the 88 million tons of food lost or wasted in Europe is down to date markings such as ‘'best before'’ and 'use by'. Knowing the difference is all you need to do to avoid wasting good food. And tell your friends!

🎥 If you prefer to learn via videos, check out our 'use by' and 'best before' dates video.


1️⃣ 'Use by' - all about safety

The 'use by' date is found on fresh, chilled, and perishable items. It is illegal for a business to sell food, or for OLIOers to hand over food, after the 'use by' date, as it could be harmful to health. ⏰ Use ‘’List For’’ when sharing on OLIO to remove your items when they reach the 'use by'. 🖐 You mustn’t organise collections from neighbours after this date. Once collected, you must carefully follow storage instructions. 

Sharing after 'use by' date:   ❌ Illegal - not allowed on OLIO. 

If you think someone is sharing food past the use by date, check out Reporting on OLIO to let us know. Please note: OLIO removes listings that are reported as past their use - by date. If we made a mistake, here's how to relist.


2️⃣ 'Best before' - all about quality 

The 'best before' date is found on frozen, dried and canned food, it simply indicates when a food is at its best. It is safe to buy, share or eat food after the 'best before' date. The government has actually considered scrapping 'best before' dates to help prevent food waste because it often gives a misleading impression that food is no longer suitable for consumption. 

Sharing food after the 'best before' date:   ✅ Legal - allowed on OLIO.

3️⃣ ‘Display until’ and ‘sell by’ - all about stock

The labels are mainly for stock control purposes. These aren't required by law and are instructions for shop staff.


 

🦸 For Food Waste Hero (OLIO volunteers):

  • Never share or agree to hand over food after the 'use by' date (i.e. the next.
  • If your business donates food past its use by, please do no list it. 
  • Always use the ‘’List For’’ to expire your items at midnight of the 'use by' date. 
  • Follow more specific guidance from your business if this is shared with you.
  • Always use a photo of your items to give requesters food safety visibility. 
  • Ambient foods with a ‘best before’ date can be shared beyond that date, just use your best judgement on quality. 
  • Chilled food with a ‘best before’ date can be shared after the date but must still be shared within 24 hours of collection.
  • Unlabelled loose bakery items must be shared within 24 hours of collecting.

 

What do I do if I spot a listing on OLIO that is past its 'use by' date?

Please report any listings that are available on OLIO beyond their 'use by' date, to help keep our community safe and healthy. For more information about how to report items, please check out our Reporting on OLIO FAQ.

 

Sources: 

📝 https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/food-labelling-terms/

📝 https://wrap.org.uk/sites/default/files/2020-07/WRAP-surplus-food-redistribution-labelling-guide-May-2020.pdf

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