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Home Food Waste What We Should Say Instead of “Best Before”

What We Should Say Instead of “Best Before”

Published on January 27 2020

Best before dates are misleading. They give people the impression that the food is no longer safe as soon as that date hits, and that leads to a lot of household food waste.

Best before dates actually have nothing to do with the safety of food. They’re about the manufacturer’s quality promise. If a breakfast cereal producer promises “crunch with every bite”, that promise is only guaranteed until the printed “best before” date. After that, unless the food is improperly stored, it will still be perfectly safe to eat, and the quality won’t instantly degrade either.

In fact, “best before” dates aren’t regulated and aren’t even legally required on most foods! There are a few exceptions, but for the most part, even whether or not to include such a date is entirely up to the manufacturer.

Best before dates

So if “best before” is so misleading, what should we say instead?

“Quality guaranteed until”, “safe until” and “ideal storage conditions”.

Yes, we’re proposing a trifecta of labelling to make things clearer and help reduce food waste!

You see, it isn’t just confusion about best before dates that lead to food waste. It’s also food going bad because it simply hasn’t been stored properly.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • “Quality guaranteed until” - This will replace the old “best before” as it’s clearer that this date is about the quality promise and not safety.

  • “Safe until” - When stored properly, many foods will remain safe to eat for months, even years. We’d like to see phrasing like, “Safe until 2023 when kept in ideal storage conditions” - this also makes it clearer that storing food correctly prolongs its life.

  • “Ideal storage conditions” - We need to get serious about how we store food. We’d like to see more guidance from producers and manufacturers, like how berries should be stored in containers that allow airflow, and away from cold spots in the fridge, while dry goods should always be stored in airtight containers out of direct sunlight.

It’s high time we stop wasting food because of misleading dates. What do you think of the current “best before” date practices? Do you have a suggestion for phrasing that’s more clear and helps reduce unnecessary food waste


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