March 14, 2012

Best Before Date: Using Food Efficiently

Are we approaching our best before date?

The person who is full says, "That is past its best before date", while someone who is hungry says, "Let me take a look."

If a cook threw out all food on or immediately after the best before date (BBD) printed on them, they would end up wasting a lot of food. In order to maximize on nutrition we should eat food as fresh as possible, but in order to use food efficiently, we should not throw out food that is still edible.

The best before date on food should be read flexibly. They are manufacturers suggestions, and are therefore advisories rather than edicts. No one is going to get sick (within reason), or arrested, for using food past the stamped date.

Some foods are still edible (although possibly not as tasty or nutritious) long past the date printed on them. Honey, for example, may have a BBD, even though it literally never goes bad. Archaeologists in Egypt discovered honey thousands of years old that was still edible, although past its BBD by a few eons.

So what is the true shelf life of various foods and beverages? Such information is crucial to know so that we can:
  1. Maintain food safety - we want to get efficient, not sick, and
  2. Save money - it is inefficient to throw out still edible food.
An excellent resource that can help extend the contents of your fridge and pantry is the website

In the site's About section they state: "Eat by Date offers info, answers and analysis related to food shelf life, food safety, food storage and how long will food last." There is a lot of interesting information here that may cause you to look at best before dates, and your food, differently.

If you are into cooking, cutting food waste, maintaining your health, and saving money, check out this handy kitchen management tool. I found out that my fish sauce could be good for up to a couple of years past the BBD.

Time to make a big, hot pot of Asian noodle soup!


  1. My father would always remind me of the flexibility of that labeling, noting how hard it was for him and his brothers and sisters growing up with so little in the pantry and their parents' wallet. It's amazing how much information that website has! Thank you very much for the information!

  2. I find it hilarious that bottled water has an expiration date.

  3. Anonymous3/15/2012

    Yeah, I used to get squeamish about eating anything one day past its date and then I finally realized that manufacturers probably have to date them quite early to ensure there is no chance at all the food will be bad. I have a giant jug of olive oil that says 12/31/11 but I am still using it with no problems. Saves a lot of waste and money!


  4. namakemono7/06/2012

    Here in Japan ALOT of food is wasted becauuse of worrying about best before dates - and this is a country that couldn`t get by without food imports! Let`s just hope nothing happens to the food supply chain!!

    1. Increasing our efficiency while using all resources is the way to go.


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