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The "best before" and "expiration" dates on food packaging

The “best before” date indicates the moment until which the food maintains the expected quality.

  • The food remains safe for the consumer after the “best before” date, provided that the storage instructions are followed and its packaging is not damaged; however, it may start to lose flavor and texture.

  • The "best before" date appears on a wide variety of refrigerated, frozen, dried (pasta, rice, etc.), canned and other foods (vegetable oil, chocolate, etc.).

  • Before throwing away food because it's past its "best before" date, check to see if it looks good and if it smells and tastes good, making sure the packaging is intact beforehand.

  • When opening a package of food with a "best before" date, follow the instructions, for example "once opened, use within three days".


The “use by” date indicates the time until which the food can be safely consumed.

  • Do not eat any food past its "use by" date.

  • The expiration date appears on highly perishable foods, such as fresh fish, fresh minced meat, etc.

  • Follow storage instructions, eg "store in refrigerator" or "store at 2-4°C"; otherwise the food will spoil sooner and you risk food poisoning.

  • If you freeze food at home soon after you buy it, you can keep it longer than the “use by” date, as long as you freeze it correctly. However, follow the instructions on the packaging, for example "store in the freezer until expiration date", "cook without thawing" or "pre-thaw completely and consume within 24 hours".

  • Once a container with an "expiration" date is opened, follow the instructions for conservation and consumption, for example "once the container is opened, consume within three days", bearing in mind that the food must be consumed before the expiration date expires. “expiration” date.

- Reference: Spanish Agency for Food Safety and Nutrition (Aesan).


The Spanish Agency for Food Safety and Nutrition has published an informative video in 2022 to help consumers distinguish between the best before date and the expiration date. It is important to ensure food safety while reducing food waste.



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