How long can you keep food after ‘best before’ dates? –

Restaurant News

open fridge on colourful background

People are being frugal with food at the moment (Picture: Getty)

It’s hard to escape the images of empty supermarket shelves at the moment and these shortages have left people thinking, more than ever, about making the most of the food that’s lying around the house.

Households up and down the country have been turning to the forgotten bits and bobs at the back of kitchen cupboards – which, let’s be honest, have probably been there for a while.

But is it actually safe to eat these foods after their ‘best before’ dates? 

We’ve put it to the experts, to find out which products have a bit more leeway and which do not.

The difference between ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ dates

Experts say the most important thing to be aware of is the difference between two different types of food labelling  – ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ dates. 



Iain Haysom, a senior lecturer in food safety at Bath Spa University, tells ‘“Best before” dates – which are often found on cupboard staples, like tinned soups, biscuits and crisps – are an indication of quality and flavour and can be used as a guide.’

Iain says that while cupboard staples may not be the best quality after their ‘best before’ dates, they don’t actually pose a danger.

He adds: ‘For example, your biscuit may be slightly stale beyond the “best before” date but it will still be safe to eat.’

Jonathan Straight from Food Approved – an online retailer of clearance food and drink – says that most people can get away with eating cupboard staples well after these dates.

He tells ‘“Best before” dates should be used as a rough guide rather than a strict rule.

‘People mistakenly think food is out of date and throw it away, yet if it has been stored properly it can last a considerable time, often several years after the date stamped on it. Manufacturers tend to err on the side of caution but tinned goods and foiled packed items are perfectly safe to use.’

Iain also stresses that fruit and vegetables and often last a number of days past their ‘best before’ dates – so with these, it’s best to judge them by eye.

vegan illustrations

Store cupboard items last longer than you might expect (Picture: Ella Byworth for

It’s worth pointing out, though, that this is not the case for fresh foods.



Iain says: ‘“Use by” dates, which are found on fresh foods like fish and meat, are important to adhere to as they will tell you the latest a product can be consumed while safe. 

‘For example, if you consume fresh chicken after the use by date, there will be a higher risk of microbial and pathogen growth on the product, which will mean a higher risk of food poisoning and other illnesses.’

Some fresh foods may have a day or two of extra life in them – but the risk increases with every day that passes.

Common food misconceptions

The way food is kept can dramatically impact its quality – so it’s important to be aware of the best storage conditions for different food types, in order to make products last longer. 

With the nation being more frugal than ever, Iain outlines a few misconceptions that people have around eating and storing certain food items.


Iain adds: “Eggs are a staple of many peoples diets un the U.K., but people are often unsure of how best to store them. Eggs are perfectly fine to be kept out of the fridge but must be kept dry, to avoid live bacteria growing on the shell. 

‘All eggs with the red lion stamp have come from laying chicken flocks that have been vaccinated against salmonella so they won’t pose a great risk if eaten past their date but should be eaten as close to the date as possible.


Iain says: ‘I often get asked about how to store and consume rice properly. Most people are aware of the dangers of eating leftover rice and rightly so – tiny spores are present in rice that when left to cool can become germinate into food poisoning bacteria. 


‘Leftover rice should be eaten within around 20 minutes of cooking, or quickly cooled and refrigerated and then reheated thoroughly if stored in the fridge.’

Fruit and vegetables

Iain says: ‘There’s a common misconception that fresh fruit and vegetables should be kept in the fridge. 

‘In fact, some fruit and vegetables actually taste better if left out of the fridge. For example, tomatoes, which are an exotic fruit, will taste much better when at room temperature as they contain enzymes which are inactive in cold temperatures.’

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