Date markings on food
Most packaged foods with a shelf life of up to 2 years require a date mark. The exceptions are individual portions of ice cream or food products in small packages (such as chewing gum), where there are no food safety concerns.
Before the date mark, you'll usually see the words 'use by' or 'best before'. Our video explains the difference between the terms.
Video: Best before and use by – What’s the difference?(0:30)
Cheerful music playing in the background.
An adult man (a father) with dark brown hair and a white T-shirt, and his young daughter, with light brown hair, sit at a table with a variety of packaged food on the table in front of them.
The voice-over says: "What’s the difference between 'best-before' and 'use-by'?"
The father and daughter both pick up the milk bottle and the daughter sniffs it.
An icon with the text 'best before' and another with 'use by' appear on screen.
The daughter covers her nose, it appears she does not like the smell of the milk. The father then sniffs the milk too.
An adult woman with long black hair, wearing a light grey shirt, appears on screen and sits down at a table with packaged food, smiling.
The voice-over says: "Knowing can help keep you and your whanau safe and reduce waste."
An older woman (a grandmother) with light brown hair and her young blond grandson appear on screen sitting at a table.
The younger adult woman appears again, inspecting a packet of ham.
The shot switches to the grandmother, and her grandson, who are inspecting a bag of baby spinach and kale.
The voice-over says: "A use-by label relates to food safety."
Another woman with light brown curly hair appears on the screen sitting at the table with a packet of salmon in her hands.
The voice-over says: "If it's past its 'use-by' – say goodbye. It could make you sick."
Text appears on the screen saying: "Past its use by? Say goodbye" as a bald man in a purple shirt, appears on the screen and throws away a packet of ham.
The camera switches back to the father and his daughter, who are inspecting a pottle of cream cheese. The voice-over says: "A best-before label speaks to the food's quality. If it looks and smells all right – it probably is."
The scene switches to the man in the purple shirt, holding up a loaf of packaged bread, then quickly to a woman with light brown curly hair, drinking a glass of milk.
The screen switches back to the grandmother and her grandson, who are inspecting deli-made coleslaw. Text appears on the screen saying: "Best before? Check it, sniff it, taste it – don't waste it."
The voice-over says: "Best before? Check it, sniff it, taste it – don’t waste it."
The camera quickly switches between each of the characters.
The father and his daughter appear on screen eating sandwiches together.
The daughter says: "What does your sandwich taste like?"
The father replies: "Really good. I think the spinach is the key."
While smiling and giggling at her father, the daughter days: "You’re just saying that to make me have more."
The video ends with text on an orange background that says "Use your food smarts" with the New Zealand Food Safety / Haumaru Kai Aotearoa logo below.
[End of transcript]
Use-by date marks on food
- A use-by label relates to food safety.
- If it’s past its use-by, say "goodbye" – eating this food could make you sick.
- Foods with use-by dates can become unsafe to eat before they are visibly spoiled or off.
- It's illegal to sell food past its use-by date.
- If you have bought some food past its use-by date and would like to report this, complete the form below.
Best-before date marks on food
- A best-before label relates to the food's quality.
- If it looks and smells okay, it probably is. Check it, sniff it, taste it – don’t waste it.
- Foods with best-before dates will spoil before they become unsafe to eat.
- It is legal to sell food past its best-before date.
- If you have bought some food past its best-before date and experienced an issue with the food, contact the business where you bought it and lodge a complaint with them.