Know your food dates

To make sure you don’t throw away perfectly usable food, check the symbols below:


What is says

What it means

Use By Label

Use by

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”. If something is approaching its “use by” date and you are unlikely to eat it, put it in the freezer!

Best Before Label

Best before

“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. Even so, there’s still things you can use those items to make. Check a few recipes here.

Display Until Label

Sell by, Display until

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.

Whoops Label


Some shops sell items close to their sell-by or use-by dates at very cheap prices. These can make for some great value purchases – but only if you are going to consume them. Only buy these products if you know you’ll eat them, no matter how good value it seems.