Ask a Nutritionist: Is Food Past Its Best Before Date Safe to Eat?

Hi Dan, Is it safe to eat food that is past its best before date?

There is a pretty simple answer to this, but I’m also going to use your question to weave in some tips to reduce food waste too.  

A best before date tells you once food passes this date, the quality is going to be noticeably reduced from when it was first produced, whereas a use by date tells you once food passes this date, you should no longer eat it. It’s quality vs safety. 

Meats and fish are more likely to have use by dates whereas fruits, vegetables and breads are more likely to have best before dates. However, the dates are still just guides and are not a guarantee. 

With foods that have a best before date use the look, feel and smell of the food as indicators of its quality and safety; you probably do this already without even realising. Some supermarkets have even decided to remove the expiry dates from their own-brand milk in favour of the smell test to help reduce food waste. 

The deterioration of quality may mean that the food is no longer suitable for what you were originally going to use it for. Stale bread is going to make a pretty sad sandwich, and spoiled milk is a sure-fire way to ruin your favourite breakfast cereal. 

However, that doesn’t mean these ingredients are useless. Stale bread is actually even better than fresh bread for croutons – just cut into cubes and cook at 200°C for 15 minutes. You could also blitz it into breadcrumbs to use as a crunchy topping for a whole host of recipes. Spoiled milk can be used in baking instead of buttermilk or sour cream. 

A best before date isn’t a funeral date. Get inventive and you can extend a food’s life way beyond what you first thought. Proper storage like putting certain vegetables covered in the fridge can extend this date even further, meaning before you know it you’re only taking the bins out once a fortnight.


Yes, just use your senses to work out whether you can eat something past its best before date. 

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