Expiry dates explained
Expiry date can be a misleading term. In the UK it is generally an umbrella term relating to use by and best before. In the USA and outside of the UK, it often refers specifically to the best before date.
Use by: Not allowed on OLIO
You'll see "use by" dates on food that goes off quickly, such as smoked fish, meat products and ready-prepared salads.
Don't use any food or drink after the end of the "use by" date on the label, even if it looks and smells fine. This is because using it after this date could put your health at risk.
For the "use by" date to be a valid guide, you must follow storage instructions such as "keep in a refrigerator".
Once a food with a "use by" date on it has been opened, you also need to follow any instructions, such as "eat within 3 days of opening".
If a food can be frozen, its life can be extended beyond the "use by" date.
"Use by" dates are the most important date to consider, as these relate to food safety.
Best before: Allowed on OLIO
"Best before" dates appear on a wide range of frozen, dried, tinned and other foods.
"Best before" dates are about quality, not safety. When the date is passed, it doesn't mean that the food will be harmful, but it might begin to lose its flavour and texture.
Every year, we throw away 7.2 million tonnes of food and drink in the UK, most of which could have been eaten. So think carefully before throwing away food past its "best before" date.
Remember, 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 and sell by: Allowed on OLIO
Retailers often use "sell by" and "display until" dates on their shelves, mainly for stock control purposes.
These aren't required by law and are instructions for shop staff, not for shoppers.
The important dates for you to look for are the "use by" and "best before" dates.