The buying public should always look for product’s length of life, the shelf life. The products expected shelf life is expressed as “Expiry Date, Consume Before, Best Before or Sell by Date”. Its an indication of products safety, a commodity that has passed its expected life expectancy may not be safe to eat. Buying such should be avoided.
If you are the manufacturer, you may wonder which term is best to use as an indication of shelf life. On the other hand, consumer may wonder if it is really not safe expired goods. The following explanation can help you get the answer.
Expiry Date means that a commodity is not safe to consume beyond the indicated date. Though it does not literally mean that a product is spoiled. Expiry Date is set by the manufacturer in accordance to their thorough study of the product, by means of real life experiments or literature. It is usually shorter than expected shelf life to provide allowance.
Consume Before, Best Before or Sell by Date mean the same thing but are different from Expiry Date. The basis of Consume Before etc… declaration are based on quality, the product is at its peak quality before the indicated date. Quality may start to degrade afterwards.
Expiry Date means that a product is still safe to eat before the date indication. However, it does not tell if a product is still at its peak quality.
update as of July 2016
The use Best Before Date is now forbidden by FDA. Expiry Date has been set as the mandatory wording.