Food labelling: Best Before and Use By Dates Explained

April 21, 2020

Many people get more than a little confused with ‘Use By’ and ‘Best Before’ date labelling. To help you get to grips with the guidelines and ensure that you don’t fall foul of the law, I’ll be explaining the rules behind each of them in two separate blogs, starting here with the ‘Use By’ date.




 A ‘Use By’ date is the most strict of the two date labelling systems. Below are simple bullet points that set out the rules you must follow:

  • The ‘Use By’ label means just that - you have to use the product by midnight on the date of the use by label – there are NO exceptions to this.

  • The shelf life of the product cannot be extended by refrigeration OR freezing.

  • If the product is cooked prior to its ‘Use By’ date, then its ‘Use By’ date can be extended by three days if refrigerated (day one being the day of cooking) or up to six months if frozen (although I would suggest no more than one month as best practise).


 A good example would be a packet of minced beef with a ‘Use By’ date expiring today. This product HAS to be used today, it can’t be refrigerated or frozen in its raw form to extend its ‘Use By’ date. So the minced beef is used to make a cottage pie before its ‘Use By’ date expires. The nature of the product has been changed and its ‘Use By’ date can now be extended by three days (day one being the day of cooking) if refrigerated and up to six months if frozen.


In my next blog I will deal with the rules governing ‘Best Before’ date labelling. 


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