One of the most common queries we receive is regarding best before dates and expiry dates. There’s also lots in the media at the moment about unnecessary food waste which is something RealFoodSource is very passionate about so we wanted to to do our bit and share a blog post to explain more about our best before dates and why our foods can be fine to eat after their date.
WHAT IS A BEST BEFORE DATE?
It is a legal requirement that all food packaging displays a correct best before date or expiry date, which to use is dependant on the type of food. Best before dates appear on non-perishable items as an indication of quality. Whereas products that will go ‘off’ will display an expiry date of when the product should not be consumed after. A best before date is a manufacturer/suppliers estimate of when the quality of it’s product may start to deteriorate. We do not currently sell perishable food items so all our current labels display a best before date.
WHY ARE PRODUCTS FINE TO EAT AFTER THE BEST BEFORE DATE?
Unlike an expiry date, a best before date relates to elements such as taste, flavour, texture and not microbiological elements surrounding if it is safe to eat. Products do not need to be discarded on the best before date and can be eaten after the date has passed. When the date has passed, food may begin to lose some of its flavour, smell and the texture may change slightly, however it is very much safe to eat. This is why there are now several stores selling foods beyond their best before dates. For example, chocolate and cocoa products have been found to be fine many years after their best before dates.
So even though food past it’s best before date is fine to consume the best before date is not a guarantee on the food quality up until this date especially if it has been improperly stored i.e food has been left out in the light instead of a cool, dark place or using a dirty spoon to scoop a product out a tub will result in cross contamination and the growth of bacteria that causes food to go ‘off.’ Therefore best before dates give an indication of food quality and food is perfectly safe to eat after the date has passed however the date does not guarantee product quality especially if it has been improperly stored/used.
HARVESTS AND BEST BEFORE DATES
With some products there are several harvests a year from different parts of the world, this means we can buy from the latest harvest where we can. With other products like organic nuts there may be only one harvest a year and you will only get approximately 12 months best before date from harvest. This means that if you buy this product, you may get 11 months best before date the first time you order then only 4 months the next time in a 12 month window. This is simply because it we want to sell a product all year round we must wait until the next harvest to buy the freshest batch.
WHY THE BEST BEFORE DATE CAN VARY BETWEEN BATCHES?
A common misconception is that the length of a best before date on a product will be the same for each batch that is received, however this is not the case. Several of our suppliers may buy from the same harvest and each of their quality departments will provide a different best before date for the product. Furthermore, a supplier may retest a batch sometime after purchase and ascertain a new best before date beyond the original given. In some cases this may mean we sell a batch after a previous batch from the same harvest that has a shorter best before date because a different quality department has determined a different best before date.
REALFOOD SOURCE BEST BEFORE DATES AND FOOD WASTE
All of our non perishable RealFoodSource food products will have a best before date of at least three months, most of our products will have well over this, some currently have over 3 years! Where a product has less than 3 months shelf life it will be on promotion with an excellent discount in our “On Sale!” section of our website that notes that this is due to the product being short-dated. There may also be other exceptions to this, such as with perishable items, which will clearly be stated on individual listings.
So don’t rush to throw out all your food that is passed it’s best before date as it will still likely be fine to eat and if you need some inspiration check out our recipe pages and free ebooks for some ideas on how to use it and turn it into a tasty treat!