Food Waste Stories

food label jargon busting - the key to cutting food waste?

Monday 12th August 2013

guest blog - amy murnan, the fresh fresher

WRAP suggest that 60% of all household waste is caused by the misunderstanding of food labels.  Considering the scares in the food industry lately, this is completely understandable – nobody wants to risk eating dodgy meat. However, it is not necessarily the date that is important on food labels. It is the pesky phrases that come before it that are causing the confusion.

Luckily for the supporters of The Food Waste Network, minimising food waste in businesses and homes is simple. Label jargon just needs a bit of de-bunking. It seems silly to think that knowing the difference between ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ could save so much food being wasted, as well as money. But it could make knowing what to save a little bit easier.

best before date

This is the date by which time the product will no longer have optimum flavour or quality – eating something after the best before date is not unsafe, only less preferable. Save it!



sell by, or display until

These phrases are for the instruction of shop staff rather than consumers. If products are past expires onthese dates, it means that it is advised that theshop does not stock them anymore to be on the extra-safe side. Save it!

expires on

This is the date that, according to the manufacturer, the product will no longer be edible. For meat or fish, it is worth sticking to this. For less risky products like fresh fruit and vegetables, looking, smelling or touching them will tell you if they really are inedible.

use by

This is most commonly found on food that expires quickly. If the product is past this date it is better to be safe than sorry, particularly with meat or fish. Bin it!

Evidently, looking for the ‘use by’ and expiry date is the easiest way of being safe with food. Other phrases are only there for shops, supermarkets and wholesalers.

Surprisingly enough, food labelling is controversial enough to earn the EU’s attention. Hopefully with the EU discussing the simplification of labels on an international level, sorting good food from bad food will become a whole lot easier and household waste will be reduced. Until then, it’s worth knowing your stuff and using The Food Waste Network for your food surplus. 

If you liked this article, discover more fresh ideas at The Fresh Fresher.


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