By: Kenneth M.S. Tan
"Best before", "Use by" and "Sell by" dates are probably some of the terms you came across when shopping for groceries. So what is the difference between these terms and "Expiry" dates? Have you ever wonder what they meant? And no folks, they do not have the same meaning.
Confuse much? No worries! Firstly, Shelf life is the duration or time limit that a commodity is usable, fit for consumption and saleable. The term "Expiry date", according to The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority, is defined as the date which the food will not be at its normal nature and quality.
Let's say "Expiry" date is the Boss of a company who manages employees namely "Best Before", "Use by", and "Sell by". He separates them into two different job scopes. One is for perishable, and the other is for non-perishable products. According to the Singapore Food Agency, "Use by" date is the standard term used for highly perishable products to tell you the time limit that is safe for you to consume. Take note. The keyword here is SAFE. It means that it can be DanGerOus for you to consume products that past its "Use by" dates. Highly perishable products are such as milk, yoghurt (dairy products), fresh fish or meat. For products that have a longer shelf life (non-perishable), "Best Before" date will handle it. Non-perishable products are such as chips and cereals etc. It is a quality indicator which tells you how long the food will be at its best quality.
The job of "Sell by" date is to mainly in-charge of telling retailers when to take the product off the shelves. The only difference for this among the rest is that this is for the retailers to know. E.g. Retailers might take down milk according to the "Sell by" dates, but it could still last another five to seven days past its sell-by date before turning bad. It can apply to both perishable and non-perishable. So next time when you see supermarket staffs re-filling and taking down products from shelves, you'll know the products might have reached its "Sell by" dates.
But wait! Is that all we need to know to prevent consuming bad food? Uh-huh! Gotcha! You don't cook often, do you? Peeps, proper storing and handling of food is as important as knowing the terms of shelf life. When not stored or handled correctly, it can be UnSaFe for consumption too. Please remember to check the signs of spoilage before consuming!