What expiry dates and best-before dates really mean

Food waste is a massive problem people are trying to tackle nowadays, and almost half of this waste happens at home. During a research project, it was found that a lot of food waste is linked to people not understanding expiry dates and best-before dates. A lot of people think that the best-before date indicates how long the food is safe to eat, and if it goes past this date, it has gone bad. Actually, according to researchers, best-before dates are actually more of a ‘suggestion’, rather than a strict rule people need to follow. Health organizations have revealed that the best-before date tells us more about how long the food stays fresh for, not when it no longer becomes edible. However, there are still some rules that need to be followed regarding the best-before date. This date applies to unopened items only, and once they are opened, it is down to you to decide if food is still good enough to eat.

What expiry dates and best-before dates really mean

Some products will have extremely strict expiry dates, that we should all listen to. These include things like baby formulas, nutritional supplements, medicines, and meal replacements to name a few. These items have an expiry date for a reason, so shouldn’t be sold, or even eaten after the date that is written on its packaging. There are some canned and packaged products that have an extremely long shelf-life. Canned food, dry goods, frozen food, all still have a best before date. However, this doesn’t really apply here. If you eat some of these long-life foods a year after their best before date, they probably won’t harm you at all, but they won’t taste the best.

Some numbers are really hard to figure out, and there are loads of numbers involved with food. However, a lot of people now want to know, so they can reduce their own food waste. Here are a few foods that have expiry dates and what you need to know about them.


Meats are one category that people worry about the most, as it can lead to some serious health complications if eaten wrong. As a general rule, all fresh meats – including bacon and other cured meat – should be eaten before their best-before date. If you want to bulk buy chicken for the family, but are worried about the date, freeze everything that you don’t think you’ll manage to eat up before the end of the best-before date. If you put meat in the freezer, remember to consume it within the month.


According to health specialists, things like milk, yogurt, and certain cheeses should be eaten before the date shown on their packets. If you have a firm, hard, or processed cheese and butter in your refrigerator, then you’ll probably be okay to eat them a little past the date. However, this is at your own discretion. If you think it looks good enough to eat, then it will probably be fine.

What expiry dates and best-before dates really mean


Eggs can last in a refrigerator for three to four weeks. However, they can cause you to be pretty sick if they aren’t fresh. If you have some eggs that are one or two days past their best-before date, just take a look at them. If you do a quick freshness test, then they should be fine to use in your desired meal. Make sure you cook the egg properly though, as an uncooked egg can be even worse than gone-off eggs.

When trying to reduce your home’s food waste, just be sensible with what you’re eating and what you’re throwing away. Make use of the freezer, and freeze any appropriate items that you might not finish. Just because something has a ‘best-before’ date doesn’t mean it is no longer edible. You just have to use your own initiative, and decide if the food is still good enough to eat.

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