Difference between expiration date and best before date

They look the same, but “best before date ” and “best before date ” indicate different concepts. However, a very important part of consumers consider that, as of the date that appears on the packaging, the product should not be consumed. In this way, they make a reading that equates both terms, regardless of their different meaning.

One of the problems associated with this incorrect interpretation of the dates on the packaging is that it ends up causing a huge waste of food. According to the experts, we get to throw away an average of € 300 per year in food that we could still take advantage of. Something that is, economically and morally, inexcusable.

According to surveys carried out in the United Kingdom, the confusion appears to be caused by the format of the legend that appears on the packaging. This usually indicates a date, a day and month or a month and year, and the consumer only notices the numbers, without looking at the phrase that accompanies them: “best before date” or “expiration date”.

In this way, their reaction is to throw away the product when it has passed the date that appears, when it should only do so if it refers to expiration, which marks the moment when the safety limit of the food is exceeded .

It should be borne in mind that certain types of food do not need indications of the duration date . They are, for example, fresh unprocessed fruits and vegetables, wines, bakery products for immediate consumption, kitchen salt and vinegars, sugar, confectionery products made almost exclusively with this ingredient or chewing gums.

And without further introduction, let’s see the differences between one concept and the other 

What is the expiration date?

The expiration date establishes the moment from which the product should not be consumed . The reason is that it begins to be dangerous for health and, therefore, it is not suitable to eat.

However, it must be emphasized that the product remains suitable for consumption until the same day that it appears on the date. In other words, because we buy it the same day that it is going to expire, it does not mean that it is less secure.

The use of this type of expiration notice occurs, especially, in highly perishable foods from a microbiological point of view . They are, for example, pasteurized (milk, yogurt, creams), and meats or vacuum packed.

Given the risk that these foods can pose to health after a short period of time, the need to mark the expiration date on the packaging has been established. This information must be completed with a description of the food storage conditions.

What is the best before date?

The concept that usually causes the most confusion among consumers is that of Preferential Consumption Date. This refers to the time in which the unopened product maintains all its properties as long as it has been stored properly.

However, unlike what happens with expiration, after the preferential consumption date the product will not carry any health risk , although it may have lost some of its properties.

The most common use of this date is in foods such as oil, legumes, purees, milk boxes or preserves.

In the case of cans , in any case, it is convenient to check some aspects before consuming them. Thus, it is necessary to check that it does not present any type of bump or dent . It should also be free of swelling . In either case, it is best to dispose of the product.

The ways of presenting the “Date of Preferential Consumption” are varied. We can find the phrase “to consume preferably before …”, when the day is specified, or “to consume preferably before the end of or the end of …”, in the other cases.

In general, in foods whose duration is less than three months, only the day and the month are usually indicated. For periods of duration between three and eighteen months, it will suffice to indicate month and year. Finally, for foods whose duration exceeds eighteen months, it will be enough to indicate the year.

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