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Food hygiene blog

Sell by, Best Before, Use By, Display Until dates

Best Before and Use By dates on food and drink

What is shelf-life?

Shelf-life is the period of time during which a food maintains its acceptable or desirable characteristics under specified storage and handling conditions. These acceptable or desirable characteristics can be related to the safety or quality of the product and can be microbiological, chemical or physical in nature.


Under European legislation (Regulation (EU) No.1169/2011) shelf-life is referred to as the “date of minimum durability”. 


What is the date of minimum durability?

Regulation (EU) No.1169/2011requires that the shelf-life of a foodstuff be indicated by either a date of minimum durability (‘best before’) or a ‘use by’ date. 


What is the difference between a ‘best before’ and a ‘use by’ date?

The date of minimum durability, or ‘best before’ date, is the date until which a foodstuff retains its specific properties e.g. taste, aroma, appearance, any specific qualities which relate to the product, vitamin content etc. when the product has been stored appropriately and the package unopened. 


Typically, a ‘best before’ date is used for food products such as canned, dried, ambient, frozen foods etc. Many foods that are past their ‘best before’ date may be safe to eat, but their quality may have deteriorated.


In the case of foods, which from a microbiological point of view, are highly perishable and are therefore likely after a short period to constitute an immediate danger to human health, the date of minimum durability must be replaced by the ‘use by’ date. The ‘use by’ is the date up until which a food may be used safely i.e. consumed, cooked or processed, once it has been stored correctly. After the ‘use by’ date a food is deemed unsafe in accordance with article 14(2) of Regulation EC No. 178/2002 and cannot be sold.


Typically, a ‘use by’ date is used for fresh, ready-to-eat and chilled foods such as yogurt, milk, meat, unpasteurised fruit juices etc. 


An exception to this is raw, shell eggs which require a ‘best before’ date as set out in Regulation (EC) No. 589/2008 as regards marketing standards for eggs.


Who decides if a product requires a ‘best before’ or ‘use by’ date?

The food business operator (usually the manufacturer or producer) attaching a label to a food product is responsible for deciding whether a ‘best before’ or ‘use by’ date is required for declaration of its shelf-life. 



When should this decision be taken?

The decision as to whether a food requires a ‘best before’ or ‘use by’ date should be taken when the food manufacturer or producer is developing their food safety management system, based on HACCP principles, for the product. It is strongly recommended that the food manufacturer or producer document this process.


Food business operators who receive bulk food product and subsequently break it down and repackage it, are now responsible for ensuring that the information provided relating to this product, including its shelf-life, is correct, under Article 8 of Regulation (EU) No.1169/2011. 


If changes are made to the information provided, for example the ‘best before’ or ‘use by’ date, these may only be made provided such modifications do not mislead the final consumer or otherwise reduce the level of consumer protection and the possibilities for the final consumer to make informed choices. The FBOs are responsible for any changes they make to the food information accompanying a food.


Do all foods require a shelf-life declaration?

No, a shelf-life declaration i.e. a ‘best before’ or ‘use by’ date, is not required for the following foods:

Fresh fruit and vegetables, including potatoes, which have not been peeled, cut or similarly treated. However, this does not apply to sprouting seeds and similar products such as legume sprouts which do require a date of minimum durability

Wines, liqueur wines, sparkling wines, aromatised wines, and similar products obtained from fruit other than grapes, and beverages falling within CN code 2206 00 obtained from grapes or grape musts

Beverages containing 10 % or more by volume of alcohol

Bakers’ or pastry cooks’ wares which, given the nature of their content, are normally consumed within 24 hours of their manufacture 


Cooking salt

Solid sugar

Confectionery products consisting almost solely of flavoured and/or coloured sugars

Chewing gums and similar chewing products.


Are there other forms of expressing shelf-life used on food products?  

Some FBOs, in addition to a declaring a ‘best before’ or ‘use by’ date, will label food products with terms such as ‘sell by’, ‘expires on’, ‘eat by’, ‘display until’ etc. followed by an appropriate date. These types of labels are sometimes used by food businesses for stock control purposes. From a consumer point of view, when checking shelf-life, only a ‘use by’ or ‘best before’ date need to be considered.


How does a business decide if a food needs a ‘best before’ or ‘use by’ date?

In order to determine whether a product requires a 'best before' or 'use by' date, food businesses can use a decision tree. 

Source: Food Safety Authority of Ireland

EU Standing Biocides committee rejects triclosan in human hygiene products


COMMISSION IMPLEMENTING DECISION (EU) 2016/110 of 27 January 2016 not approving triclosan as an existing active substance for use in biocidal products for product-type 1.

The BPC had voted that triclosan should not be approved because of its toxic and bioaccumulative effects. 

PT 1 Human hygiene: Products in this group are biocidal products used for human hygiene purposes, applied on or in contact with human skin or scalps for the primary purpose of disinfecting the skin or scalp.

What makes a training centre excellent?

Kitchen Tonic was featured as CIEH excellent centre in this recent interview. 

What makes a training centre excellent?

July 6, 2015
Helen Hartropp, Quality Assurance Consultant, CIEH with Anna Howells, Development Manager and Commissioning Editor, CIEH

A CIEH centre is a registered training provider responsible for administering the delivery of training programmes in support of CIEH vocational qualifications. Over the years, working formerly as the CIEH Quality Assurance Manager and latterly as a CIEH auditor, I have encountered many excellent CIEH centres. These centres vary in size and remit. Some are small with just one trainer. Others are training departments, colleges or large-scale nationwide enterprises employing any number of trainers. Some provide in-house training for a single employer. Others provide training for a variety of clients in the public and private sector, as open or closed courses, for individuals and groups. What excellent centres all have in common is the way they manage, develop and promote their businesses and also the extent to which they comply with CIEH quality standards and procedures.

The purpose of this article is to share examples of good practice to help you to improve the quality of training delivery and, thereby, maintain and develop your businesses.

Communication is key

Excellent centres have a well-developed understanding of their clients’ and learners’ needs. Time spent conducting a ‘training-needs analysis’ with clients and initial assessment with learners will help to ensure that training delivery is effective in achieving agreed aims. Making contact with clients at regular intervals will help you to maintain your profile as an expert training provider and secure future business.

Keeping abreast of industry news and developments will help you to anticipate and respond to your clients’ training needs. For example, you could use the free TiFSiP Allergen Information interactive pdf to help your clients understand the new requirements under the Food Information Regulations 2014 and, should training needs be identified, offer to run a CIEH Level 2 Award in Food Allergen Awareness course for staff to develop their knowledge and understanding of the principles of practical allergen management.

Business development

Excellent centres often have reputations that precede them ¬– attracting new business through recommendations. Few, however, are passive in this process. Networking is key to identifying new commercial opportunities. Excellent centres are usually embedded in the local business community actively engaging with colleagues in training and the industries they serve.

Training solutions

Excellent centres ensure that they provide training solutions that best meet the needs of their clients and learners. Training costs employers – not just in the fees for courses but also to cover staff absence. In an increasing competitive market, centres have to come up with creative and flexible training solutions. This may involve e-learning or developing blended learning options to run alongside conventional face-to-face training.

Excellent centres have trainers who provide courses that engage and motivate learners. In addition to developing session plans that cover all the learning outcomes and criteria in the units of assessment, trainers will:

  • elicit learners’ prior knowledge based on experience
  • adapt content to ensure it is relevant
  • encourage active participation in learning
  • develop strategies and resources to meet a wide range of learning needs
  • relate theory to practice at every available opportunity

Continuing professional development

Excellent centres have professional trainers who commit to maintaining and developing their professional knowledge. Professional standards, such as those published by the Education and Training Foundation in 2014 for teachers and trainers in England, set out clearly the expectations centres, clients and learners should have with regard to effective practice and also provide a framework for assessment and self-assessment to identify areas for development.

Trainers may use a range of continuing professional development strategies – such as formal study, attendance at courses or workshops, using free resources on websites such as those of the Food Standards AgencyHealth and Safety Executive or Public Health England, joining membership organisations such as TIFSIP or online professional groups such as those on LinkedIn.

When delivering vocational qualifications, vocational experience is essential – if only to remind the trainer on the ‘high hard ground of theory’ of the challenges faced by those in the ‘swampy lowlands of practice’ (Schön, 1983). It is for this reason that CIEH encourages registered trainers to visit workplaces to develop a better understanding of learners’ needs.

Course administration

Excellent centres manage the delivery of training courses and assessments and recognise the value of efficient and effective administration as part of good customer service. The CIEH’s requirements for training delivery and assessment are clearly laid out in the Procedure Manual and form the basis for the CIEH audit. To support administrative functions, CIEH provides templates of key documents for centres to adapt to meet specific needs.

Excellent centres administer assessments correctly. Having undertaken training and completed the assessment, learners and clients will be keen to find out who has passed. The single most common reason for delays in the processing of results is the failure on the part of centres and/or trainers to complete the paperwork correctly. Double checking paperwork to ensure that it is complete and correct before submitting results to the CIEH for processing will ensure that CIEH is able to fulfil its customer service pledges for the turnaround of certificates – keeping you, your client and your learners happy.


An excellent centre is a successful centre. By learning from experience and committing to the process of continual improvement you can develop your business and ensure its financial success. To find out more about what an excellent centre looks like look at the case studies of Kitchen Tonic and Kings Safety Training.

Authors’ Biography

Helen Hartropp has worked for the CIEH in various capacities for 14 years, as training centre, an auditor, examiner and Quality Assurance Manager. She has recently retired from her role as Quality Assurance Consultant. She is the author of the training materials developed to support the CIEH Level 2 Award in Hygiene in Health and Social Care. Before joining the CIEH, she managed a business, generating income for the NHS, which provided food and environmental microbiology services for food and catering establishments and other hospitals.

Anna Howells is the Development Manager and Commissioning Editor working for the CIEH awarding organisation. She leads the Product Development team, producing materials to support the delivery of CIEH vocational qualifications.



Schön D A (1983) The reflective practitioner: how professionals think in action, New York: Basic Books 

Brussel sprout salmon pasta bake - recipe of the month

A great way to use up any vegetables in the bottom drawer of your refrigerator this festive season. 

You will need:

Handful of brussel sprouts -5-8 sprouts

1-2 red/purple/white onions

1 leek

2-3 cloves of garlic

1 teaspoon mustard to enhance the flavour (optional)

Oil (any)

Butter 25g


Pasta - dry - any shape

Cheese approx 85g (any strong type you may have been given in a hamper)

Skimmed milk 1 pint

Plain flour 25g

Dried parsley 1 teaspoon

Curry powder 1 teaspoon


Cook pasta until al dente

Wash all vegetables and finely shred them all

Place them in a pan with 1 dessert spoon of oil and sweat them until soft. Add in the parsley and curry powder. This adds iron to the dish.

Make a cheese sauce with the cheese (70g) butter, plain flour and milk. Add cheese to your desired taste. The stronger the cheese the less you will need to use. 

Bake the salmon in the oven and then cut up to inch size portions.

Mix the pasta with the vegetables, add 3/4 of the cheese sauce and all of the salmon.

Mix well and place in a baking tray. Spread the remaining cheese sauce on the top of the pasta mix. Grate some cheese on top.

Place in an oven for approximately 40 minutes at 170c or until brown and bubbling. 

Serve with a salad and a wedge of lemon.



I used some left over fresh salmon. I have previously used a packet of smoked salmon. You could also use canned salmon or tuna. Instead of fish, you could add remaining turkey or a can of chickpeas. 

This recipe is great for using up any leftover vegetables. Use any vegetable, but I find any vegetable from the brassica family goes well with salmon. 

Washing up tip, I usually line my baking trays with grease proof paper. It's easy to remove the food from the tray and saves on the kinetic energy! My level 3 food safety students should know all about that!

Improve your Food Hygiene Rating

Do you know what local authority environmental health inspectors are looking for when they visit your food business? Does your food business have a poor hygiene rating?

What is a Food Hygiene Rating?  

The food hygiene rating given to a food business reflects the standards of food hygiene found on the date of inspection or visit by the local authority inspectors. The scheme is a Food Standards Agency and Local Authority partnership The food hygiene rating is not a guide to food quality or standards of service. It is a rating of risk to consumers.  

The scheme is run by local authorities in England, Northern Ireland and Wales and applies to restaurants, pubs, cafes, pop-up food businesses, markets, home businesses, takeaways, hotels, supermarkets and other food businesses.

Many consumers today are more than likely to check out your Food Hygiene Rating, which you may have displayed on your front door or window. If you don’t have it displayed, consumers can check out your rating on-line or they could walk away and go to another place, where it is displayed. Customers may also check out your rating on-line prior to making a booking. 

It is not a legal requirement in England (it is in Wales) to display your Food Hygiene Rating, although your Enforcement Officer may recommend you do so. If food businesses fail to display ratings in Wales, the company is fined. It will also become compulsory in Northern Ireland in 2016 to display ratings. 

Food Hygiene Ratings have replaced the ‘Scores on Doors’ rating system since 2012. The Ratings are expressed in a value of O to 5. 

The ratings are:

5 - Very good 

4 - Good 

3 - Generally satisfactory 

2 - Improvements necessary 

1 - Major improvement necessary 

0 - Urgent improvement necessary 

As part of the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme, at the end of inspections, the business will be given one of the six ratings based on certain criteria. These are set out below.


How are food hygiene ratings calculated?


When the Enforcement Officer from the Local Authority carries out an inspection, there are many different things the look at and look for. There are 3 main categories. 

The first category the officer is looking at the hygienic handling of *food. This includes the preparation and cooking of food, as well as storage of food products and cooling and reheating of food products.    

The second category is the cleanliness and the condition of the facilities. This section covers, cleaning, pest control, hand washing facilities and maintenance.  

The third section covers how well the business is managed! Here the officer will check if systems are in place to protect food safety, such as a Food Safety Management Systems and HACCP plans. They will check if your staff follow good hygiene rules.

Wales has seen significant improvements in ratings since the introduction of the Food Hygiene Rating (Wales) Act 2013, where it is a legal requirement to display ratings. If not, the food business will faced with a fine. 

How can I improve my Food Hygiene Rating?

Your rating will stay with you until your next inspection. This could vary between 6 months to 3 years. Great if you have a rating above 3. But what if you have a rating below 3? Would you like help improving your risk rating? Or are you happy with your risk rating and would like to maintain your quality standards. Call us 020 3371 1516 and ask about our food hygiene audits. Prices start from £350/visit. 

We also provide documentation services such as HACCP and food safety policies.  

At Kitchen Tonic we have helped our clients drive up food safety standards in the work place, through our training and food safety assessments. Our clients "Food Hygiene Ratings" have improved from 0 or 1 to 3 stars and from 3 or 4 to 5 stars and in one case 0 to 5. We maintain client confidentiality at all times. Our clients include well known high street catering, hospitality and retail companies. 

*Food refers to any food or drink products that you serve to customers including ice. 

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