14 foods you can safely eat past their best before date

What does the best before date really mean? (Picture: Getty)

Ideally, you’d eat everything before the ‘best before’ date printed on the packet.

But sometimes, a random takeaway or an unexpected meal out means you don’t get time to eat everything from your food shop as and when you’d originally planned.

Fortunately, it’s not the end of the world, as you might still be able to eat it a day or two later.

You might even be able to do the same with milk soon, too – as Morrisons has announced plans to scrap the use of ‘use by’ dates and encouraging use of a sniff test instead.

Here, we explain which foods it’s generally seen as okay to eat after the best before date.

Plus why it’s a different story for the ‘use by’ date.

What’s the difference between best before and use by?

Look out for ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ dates on your product (Picture: Getty)

Firstly, it’s important to know the difference between a ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ date. It’s really quite simple.

Use by is about food safety. Usually, it’s provided on fresh, highly perishable products such as fish or chicken. Eating something after the specified use by date is considered unsafe.

However, the best before date is not about safety – but signifies when the food is of the highest quality.

After the best before date, you may still be able to munch on it. But it might have a different texture, or not taste the best.

Many items you buy from the supermarket will have one of these dates. Not both. Only one is recommend by Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), a charity and expert on food labelling – so follow whichever label they have opted for.

Can you eat foods after the use by dates?

Don’t ignore the use by date, whatever you do (Picture: Getty)

To reiterate, no. You shouldn’t eat foods after the use by date – according to the NHS and the UK’s Food Standards Agency.

The use by date is a food safety warning – not a guide. The date is the final day the product should be eaten, even if the food looks and smells completely edible.

Beyond this date, there’s potential for bad bacteria to grow and even food poisoning to occur.

There are only two reasons you should eat something after the use by date. One is if you froze it beforehand – and the other is if you cooked and stored it as part of another item.

The foods you can eat after the best before date

So, back to best before dates – and when you can eat foods after these dates.

Can you eat eggs after the best before date? (Picture: Getty)

Technically, anything frozen, dried or canned should be fine to eat just after the best before date. Again, it’s more of a guide, and the food might taste slightly different.

Here are a few examples:

Store dry pasta in an airtight container (Picture: Getty)
  • They also say canned food can also last up 24 months after the date.
  • Sauce bottles, such as tomato ketchup, can last a few months in the fridge.
  • Vinegar and soy sauce should last years.
  • Likewise, if you put your flour and sugar in an airtight container, not the paper packets they usually come in, it should be usable beyond the best before date. (Watch out for little ‘weevils’, though, i.e. those little bugs that can get in when left unsealed for long periods of time).
  • Peanut butter can last beyond the best before date if stored in a cool, dark place (not the fridge).
Peanut butter can last beyond the best before date (Picture: Getty)
  • Cereals can last past the best before date, too. Ideally, you’d want them out of the box and kept in an airtight container.
  • An unopened (this bit’s important) packet of biscuits can be kept for a few weeks post-best before, says TooGoodToGo.

Keep in mind

This is all based on proper storage, not just stuff you’ve left shoved half-open in the back of the cupboard.

If something is past its best before date, pay attention to how it looks, smells, and feels before you go to eat it. Food waste isn’t ideal, but don’t eat anything you’re not 100% sure about.

How long can you keep food after the best before dates?

MORE : Reduce, reuse, recycle: Sustainable lifestyle hacks for your home and kitchen

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