Food shopping reading nutrition labels
5 min read
In Australia, more than one in five shopping bags of food purchased are wasted, costing households about $2500 a year - not to mention the impact on the environment. Greenhouse gases are produced at every step of the food chain - from farm to bin - and contribute significantly to Australia's overall impact on climate change...

There are many ways people can reduce the amount of food they throw away unnecessarily, including an understanding of the differences between ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ on food labels.


Although well intended for food safety, these dates stamped on food packaging often contribute to the global and impactful problem of food waste because people all around the world are innocently and unnecessarily throwing out food because they believe something is off. Not only do we already throw away too much perfectly good food at every interval along the supply chain, but throwing out our packaged foods has added impact on the environment. This is because these foods have used additional resources through processing and packaging, compared to fresh fruits and vegetables, before coming to your kitchen. Planning meals and understanding food labels are key steps to reducing food waste and having a healthy and sustainable diet.


What is the difference between best before and use by dates on food packets?

‘Best before’ dates mean that while the product is thought to have the best flavour, texture and overall quality before the date listed, it is not necessarily off afterwards. 


Foods with an expired best before date can be perfectly safe to eat after the date listed, but this should be assessed on a case-by-case basis. In the UK currently, there is a campaign encouraging people to do the ‘sniff test’ for dairy to check it’s actually off before disposing of it.


‘Use by’ dates are different and a way of ensuring food safety. It means foods are safe to eat before the date listed but might not be afterwards.


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