I would not be surprised if the average consumer was left even more confused by the media, including BBC Breakfast this morning. Even the Freesat “text” service seemed to indicate that “the Food Standards Agency is getting rid of sell by dates”! Sell by dates have not existed for many years now of course. Display Until dates still do – they are and have always been a stock rotation guide really for the retailers.
Let me make this easy:
Use By Dates – this is an “order” – think of food in a fridge that “goes off ” and can become dangerous within a short space of time.
Best Before Date – a guideline – think of food in the cupboard like biscuits, chocolate, dried foods and tins. Theywill not become dangerous through bacterial growth. Actually the worst that can really happen is that food goes stale or beyond its best quality. Can you eat food beyond a best before date. Yes – it may not be so good but yes you can. The exception to this would be obviously mould spoilt products like bread or cakes – there is a potential risk with the consumption of some moulds, because of a toxin they produce – although this is rare.
So let’s be clear – the Food Standards Agency is asking for the removal of display until dates at the moment. That’s all. The further debate is whether Best Before dates should be abolished and there is a good case for this – perfectly good food is being wasted. They have issued guidance here – http://www.food.gov.uk/news/newsarchive/2011/sep/datelabels