Understanding the difference between "Best before" and "Use by" dates!

Georgina Roberts Updated by Georgina Roberts

Food labels can be a little confusing sometimes as there are a few different types. The difference between best-before dates and use-by dates is important, knowing the difference ensures food safety but also can prevent unnecessary food waste.

Essentially a use-by date relates to food safety and a best-before date relates to food quality. Companies are legally obligated to provide the correct label with dates, relative to the type of food they are selling.

Foods that are most likely to have use-by dates rather than best before dates are things like meats, dairy etc, anything that poses a high risk to the customer should they consume this product past its use-by date. It is not limited to animal products however, so always pay attention to the labels.

Foods that have best-before labels may be things like fresh fruit and veg produce, or anything else like canned goods, and of course supplements. These foods are generally much lower risk to the customer should they consume them “passed” their best-before date, as it is more an educated estimation by the producer. Food with best-before dates may last less time or longer time depending on how they have been stored. For example, some carrots that have been refrigerated will almost certainly keep much longer than carrots that have been left on the windowsill in the sunshine. With best-before dates there is an element of discernment being left to the consumer, we must use our common sense. The UK government is in fact considering scrapping best-before dates, to prevent unnecessary food waste.

Here at Vivo Life, we take food safety very seriously, but there is also considerably lower risk when making supplements out of dried ingredients than say compared to meat products. We are BRC audited, a strict process that ensures we meet all the food safety and quality standards that we set.

Our labels state BBD: 1/23 (example date), this means that the given product is best before the END of 1/23. When setting these dates, we use historic data we have demonstrated that the products hold at least 1 year’s shelf life, and we carry out validation testing to determine each products exact best-before date. This is done using our external laboratory to check the stability, microbiology and all the nutritional, vitamins and minerals contents are good. Following this, we taste on site, compared to a fresh batch of product to ensure no degradation of the texture, aroma, flavour, and appearance of the product.

To reiterate, this 1/23 (example) best-before date is a recommendation of when the supplement is at its best. There is not a food safety issue here, otherwise it would be written as a use-by date. As with food, supplements will keep better or worse depending on how they have been stored. The best place to keep your supplements is a cool, dry, dark place like a kitchen pantry, kept sealed using the pouch seal or even better roll it up and peg it closed for extra assurance. Use your common sense and if anything looks unusual, then it probably is!

Things to look out for with supplements is if damp has gotten in, if your product does not have any “sticky” ingredients (like coconut sugar), and it is looking a little damp and clumpy, then its probably not good enough to consume, this applies even before the best-before date.

Our products usually come with around a year’s shelf life on them, so plenty of time to use them way before the date. However, if you do find a pouch at the back of your cupboard and its near to its best-before date, take heed of the above information and make an informed decision!

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