Packaged bacon

Packaged foods with a shelf life of less than two years must have a label showing the use-by or best-before date.

Use-by

Use-by dates are about food safety. The date’s determined by the time required for the pathogens in food to grow to levels above which illness might occur. As long as the food is stored correctly and isn't opened, it should be safe to eat before its use-by date. After the use-by date, a food can't legally be sold and shouldn't be eaten.

Use-by dates usually appear on perishable food like meat, poultry and deli products.

Best-before

Best-before dates are about food quality. Food can be sold and eaten after its best-before date as long as it’s been stored according to the instructions on the label. But it may have lost quality and some nutritional value.

You'll find best-before dates on less perishable foods such as cereals, flour and canned goods.

As soon as you open any packaging, the shelf life becomes the same as if the product was unpackaged. For example, a packet of vacuum-packed smoked salmon may have a use-by date that’s one month away – but once you’ve opened it, you should keep it in the fridge and eat it within two days (see How long will it last?).

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