Warwickshire Trading Standards Service has a vital role to play make sure that food is safe to consume, meets UK and European quality standards and is adequately and honestly described.
Trading Standards Officers achieve this by testing food, inspecting shops and by providing advice to traders and consumers.
If you have any concerns, complaints or queries about the way food is labelled or described, contact Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06.
‘Best Before’ and ‘Use By’ dates
Most packaged foods are required to be date marked with an indication of the minimum durability of the food – how long the food will last before it becomes dangerous to eat, or the quality or taste of the food deteriorates.
There are three types of date markings for packaged food. These are:
This is applied to foods which are highly perishable and are therefore likely after a short period before they constitute an immediate danger to human health, e.g. fresh meat, fish, poultry, cooked meat, pate, dairy products, ready made meals, salads and soft cheeses. They are required to be marked with ‘a day’ and ‘a month’, e.g. Use by 28 January.
Foods marked with a “use by” date may not be sold or displayed for sale after their marked dates.
This is applied to foods intended to have a shelf life of three months or less, e.g. bread or hard cheeses. They are required to be marked with ‘a day’ and ‘a month’, e.g. Best before 04 March.
‘Best before’ may also be applied to foods with a shelf life of between three months and 18 months, provided it is marked with ‘a day’, ‘a month’ and ‘a year’, e.g. Best before 22 June 2012.
Best before end
This should be applied to foods intended to have a shelf life in excess of three months, e.g. frozen and tinned foods. They are required to be marked with ‘a month’ and ‘a year’, e.g. Best before end May 2013.
Alternatively for products with a shelf life of over 18 months, this indication may be in the form of a year only, e.g. Best Before End 2014
Foods marked with “best before” or “best before end” dates may be sold after their marked dates,provided that they remain of good quality and fit for human consumption. In these circumstances we advise retailers to ensure that customers know that the date has expired before they make the decision to buy.
District and Borough Council Environmental Health Officers deal with food hygiene matters .
Business Companion – Trading Standards Business Advice
Business Companion provides free and impartial legal guidance for businesses and individuals that need to know about trading standards and consumer protection legislation. Key topics and business activities include fair trading law, product safety, underaged sales, food standards and safety, animal health & welfare and weights & measures.