What foods can you safely eat past by the best before date?
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 – if it’s definitely a best before date (a guide to food quality) and not a ‘use by’ date (there for food safety reasons).
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 foods can you eat after the best before date?
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:
- frozen foods will be suitable to eat after the best before date for time, if it was stored as per the packaging’s instructions.
- eggs can be eaten for a couple of days after the best before date, says the Food Standards Agency. Make sure they’re thoroughly cooked.
- Bread can last for two weeks past the best before, if you keep it in the fridge, according to TooGoodToGo. Best for making toast, they say.
- white rice can be eaten post best before date, if you’ve stored it in an airtight container. (Do check it before you go to cook, though).
- dry paste can last 24 months after the best before date, again if it’s stored in an airtight container, according to BBC Good Food Australia.
- They also say canned food can also last up to 24 months after the date.
- Willow bottlessuch as tomato ketchup, can last a few months in the fridge.
- vinegar and i am willow should last years.
- Likewise, if you put your flower 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, ie 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).
- 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.
This is all based on proper storage, mind, 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.
Can you eat foods after the use by dates?
The above shows examples of things you can, if they seem OK, eat after the best before date.
However, you shouldn’t eat anything after its use by date has passed, says the UK Food Standards Agency.
The use by date is a food safety warning – not a guide. The displayed date is the final day the product should be eaten, even if the food looks totally OK and seems edible.
That’s because, beyond this date, there’s potential for bad bacteria to grow and even food poisoning to occur.
Iain Haysom, senior lecturer in food safety at Bath Spa University, previously told metro.co.uk:
‘For example, if you consume fresh chicken after the use by date, there will be a higher risk of microbial and pathogen growth on the product, which will mean a higher risk of food poisoning and other illnesses.’
There are only two reasons you should eat something after the use by date. One is if you frozen it beforehand – and the other is if you cooked and stored it as part of another item.’
Meat and fish are some examples of products that can make you ill if consumed after the use-by date.
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