Cost of Living: What can you eat safely after its best before date?

Supermarket giant Morrisons caused a stir at the beginning of the year when it announced it was replacing the use by date on its bottles of milk with a best before date.

Customers were outraged at being told by the retailer to try ‘a sniff test’ to make sure the milk was still fresh before they used it.

And now Co-Op has announced it is doing the same with its own-brand yoghurt pots. The move, designed to encourage people to use their judgement before getting stuck in, could cut back on the £740-worth of edible food waste charity WRAP reckon every household wastes each year.

Read more: Clever tips on how to save cash on your weekly food shopping trip

In the current cost of living crisis, it could make all the difference. But, if the reaction of Morrisons ‘ announcement is anything to go by, there is still a lot of confusion over best before and use by dates, and the difference between the two.

Use-by dates are about safety

This is the most important date to remember. You can eat food until and on the use-by date but not after. You will see use-by dates on food that goes off quickly, such as meat products or ready-to-eat salads.

Best before dates are about quality

The best before date, sometimes shown as BBE (best before end), is about quality and not safety. The food will be safe to eat after this date but may not be at its best. Its flavor and texture might not be as good. Best before dates appear on a wide range of foods including frozen foods, dried foods and tinned foods.

So what is safe to eat once it’s gone past its best-before date?

milk and yogurt

Some supermarkets have already switched the use by to best before dates on some diary products, as you can certainly tell when milk has gone off. Wrap reckons we pour 490million pints of milk away each year, but as long as it looks, smells and tastes OK, milk is fine to consume after its best before date. Just make sure it doesn’t smell or taste sour, or have a lumpy texture.

Likewise, if stored unopened and correctly in your fridge, yoghurt can keep for weeks after its best before. This is because of the acid in the product, which helps keep bacteria at bay.

Cheese

Your gran was right – it is perfectly OK cut away any small amounts of mold and safely eat the rest, as long as it’s mold-free.. Hard cheeses like Cheddar or Parmesan are safe to eat after the best before date has passed. Avoid this for soft cheeses as mold can travel more quickly through them.

bread

It’s fairly simple to see whether bread is off, as it will often grow mold. Storing in the fridge can help it keep for up to two weeks after its best before date. Freezing it (before its use-by) can also help, and toasting it from frozen doesn’t take much longer.

Dried cake and rice

Regardless of what it says on the packet, dried cake can keep for up to three years. All you need to do is make sure it’s stored in an air tight container or packaging.

Dry white rice can last for years like pasta if stored in an airtight container, but brown rice doesn’t contain the same preservatives, so better play safe.

Biscuits and cereals

According to food charity Food Cycle, biscuits and cereals can go as long as six months over their Best Before date, although taste to make sure it’s not stale before you pour out a big bowlful.

fruits and vegetables

If they look, smell and taste fine, fruit and veg is safe to eat. For soft fruit like strawberries or grapes, remove any moldy or squishy fruit from the punnet as it can quickly turn the others.

eggs

A shocking 720 million eggs are thrown away each year, but you can get an extra three weeks of life from your eggs if you keep them in the fridge. There’s no mistaking an egg that’s gone off, so if it smells OK, crack on.

Canned goods

Due to the sterilization process of packaging food into tins, they can be eaten for years afterwards.

Honey

Sugary crystals do not mean your honey’s gone off. Just place the jar into some boiling water and it will revert to its usual state.

Sugar

Sugar is a preservative and can keep indefinitely if stored in an airtight container.

jams

Keep an eye for mold growing on the surface – if there’s none you’re good to go.

Vinegar and soy sauce

Vinegar is another preservative and will last long after its best before and s vote sauce will keep because of its pure content.

Nick Cornwell, of the Co-op, said: “Data from Wrap has suggested that 70% of food waste happens within the home setting. It’s our ambition to help our members and customers to make small changes that will collectively make a big impact and combat unnecessary food waste. Controlling food waste is not only beneficial for managing household budgets, it also has an environmental benefit and will ultimately help reduce carbon emissions.”

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