The Risk Management Tool Box Blog

Food Safety

Graham Marshall - Saturday, April 30, 2011

I don't often have so much to say about the "H" for health in Occupational Health and Safety. 

But today is definitely a "health" topic.

Have you ever thought about the difference between the words "Best-before", "use-by", or even "sell-by" or "display-until" that crop up on your grocery purchases?

Well, in the greener more eco-friendly World we all now inhabit, the UK advisory body Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) says that families are trashing up to a quarter of their monthly grocery purchases because of this confusion.

The cost is said to be about £680 to the average British Family every year.

Apparently, the confusion over product labeling means that shoppers are  unclear about the difference between "use-by" and "best-before".

So what purpose do they actually serve?

The UK Food Standards Agency says that "best before" dates are about quality of the product and NOT safety.

The "best before" date shows when a product could begin to lose flavor and texture.

It does not  indicate that the foodstuff is dangerous.

The purpose of "best before" is really to protect product manufacturers and retailers from litigation, and has nothing to do with  the health of consumers.

In contrast, however, the "use-by" date is to show when meat products, cooked meats, soft cheeses, dairy-based dessert and other similar "fresh" products may put people at risk if eaten after a given date.

So the "use by" date provides the key information to consider in terms of health risk.

Never eat food after this date.

In all cases the "use-by" date is only reliable when the foodstuff is stored according to any given instructions on the product.

For further information on this topic, click here to visit Food Standards (Australia and NZ).

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