The best before date shows when a food is fresh—how long that food will keep its flavour and nutritional value. It has more to do with how the food tastes than with food safety.
When a package is open or if the food is frozen, the best before date no longer applies. If a food is properly frozen two days before its best before date, it should be edible for two days at the start of the thawing process.
A best before date must appear on any packaged food that stays fresh for 90 days or less. It may also appear on foods that stay fresh for more than 90 days. The date can appear anywhere on the package. The year is optional. If the label includes the year, it goes first, then the month, then the day.
- Example: Best before 18 JA 22
- Month symbols: JA = January; FE = February; MR = March; AL = April, MA = May; JN = June; JL = July; AU = August; SE = September; OC = October; NO = November; DE = December
You can buy and eat some foods after the best before date has passed. You do not need to throw out unopened packages of non-perishable foods such as cereal, crackers, and flour that are past the best before date.
Generally, if food changes colour, looks different, or has a bad smell it is no longer safe to eat. Try to pay attention to the best before date on perishable foods such as fresh meat, poultry, fish, and dairy products.
If not stored properly, perishable foods can be unsafe before the best before date. For example, milk can go sour and meat can go 'bad' before the best before date if they are not kept in the fridge.