Food,animal & human, use by dates

My local Foodworks is selling dog food marked as best before
Human food is generally marked use by to the best of this shoppers knowledge.

Is the dogfood out of date and should it be removed from the shelves?

why is there a difference, is it just animal/human food or do some people food get marked best before too?

Hi @arcobelina,
You’ll find the ‘best before’ label on some foods for human consumption too. There is a difference between ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ before - here are the definitions:

  • A best-before date is the last date on which you can expect a food to retain all of its quality attributes, provided it has been stored according to any stated storage conditions and the package is unopened. Quality attributes include things such as colour, taste, texture, flavour and freshness. A food that has passed its best-before date may still be perfectly safe to eat, but its quality may have diminished.

  • A use-by date is the last date on which the product may be consumed safely, provided it has been stored appropriately and the package is unopened. After this date, it should not be consumed for health and safety reasons. You’ll find use-by dates on perishables such as meat, fish and dairy products.

You can read more in our article on food labelling and what to watch out for:

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An article regarding Woollies in Cairns being fined and convicted for having tins of baby formula for sale which had expired 5 months before.

Perhaps they should have had a special for the daigou buyers as it would still probably be safer than their local product.

Now how does the jingle go. Oh, that’s right. “Woolworths, the fresh food people”.

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It generally is not recommended to consume any foods, including dairy, beyond the use by date. This is because the growth of bacteria in the products, which cause spoiling, can increase to a level which may impact on one’s health.

Best before dates on food is different and where the degradation of the food through storage results in loss of nutritional value or food quality.

Food Standards Australia has information on use by and best before dates…

Poor storing conditions and handling can affect both use by and best before dates, making the food have shorter shelf life. An example is leaving refrigerated foods out of the fridge for extended periods during it’s use causing the food’s temperature to increase, accelerating bacterial growth.


The use by date has two factors.
Firstly, it is set by the producer of the product, based on their standards and not by anyone else.
Secondly, it is unlawful to sell a product that has reached its use by date.
I find that the brand of milk I buy has a use by date that is set conservatively by the producer and in my experience will always be perfectly good for five days beyond the date if properly stored in the fridge.


That is incorrect. The use by date is not set by the producer, but the nature of the product itself. The use by date is established from when some bacteria can grow to dangerous levels, even if the food is kept refrigerated. This can occur before the food noticeably spoils (or starts to smell off in the case of milk).

The use by date will have been determined through testing of the milk products stored under refrigerated conditions, where the number of bacteria colony forming units are at a level which may cause enough bacteria to be present which poses health risks. The length of time say from pasteurisation to CFU being at unsafe levels has been established and the use by date on products is to ensure that if the product is stored under refrigerated conditions ( ≤4°C) won’t have unsafe levels of bacteria at that date. It is not something that the producer thinks is good use by date for some other reason.

As the milk isn’t refrigerated at all times (taking from the shop to home, when in the home etc), there is potential that the milk may spoil before the due date has been reached. This is why it is also generally suggested to smell milk as well before the due date has been reached before consuming.

I would not recommend consuming milk past its use by date as there is a higher health risks from its consumption.


Suggest you read the food standards @phb regarding who sets use by dates.

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The Guide to the Standard says:

Foods with a ‘use-by’ date

If packaged foods need a ‘use-by’ date for food safety reasons, you will need to identify the
food poisoning bacteria you want to control and predict how long the food can be safely kept.

This must take into account the storage and distribution conditions to which the food will be

If packaged foods need a ‘use-by’ date for health reasons, you will need to identify the
nutrients in the food that are not stable and work out how long these nutrients are likely to be
present at the correct levels in the food. This must take into account how the food will be
stored and distributed.

You may wish to seek expert advice before calculating the shelf life of a food. Laboratories
that test food are usually able to assist with shelf-life studies.

The use by date isn’t a date made up by the producer, as outlined in my previous post, it is calculated based on the product and the health risks associated with its storage.

If one chooses to consume foods after the use by date, one has to also realise that there is health risks associated with its consumption (such as food poisoning) even if the food shows no evidence of spoiling.

Retailers are prohibited to sell any products after the use by date due to these risks. Products can be sold up until the use by date and are often discounted to ensure a quick sale and to reduce the amount of waste generated by the retailer.


At the risk of getting in the middle, from Food Standards Australia New Zealand, hotlinked (bold added)

The food supplier is responsible for placing a use by or best before date on food.

It could be semantics or interpretation of the thesis; other than general guidelines I could not find what would essentially be a table such as
milk : use by date is 14 days from bottling
although it may exist somewhere I overlooked. I did find info applicable in the US, but we are sometimes different.


Well we could go around in circles all day long @phb, but I see very clearly in the food standards that the producer is responsible for determining the application of use by, and best before, dates on their products, not any authority. I don’t like selective cut and pasting in posts so would just direct anyone to check it out themselves in “food standards Australia use by dates”

That is correct that the producer determines the use by date based in the product being produced…but it isn’t a date made up or corrupted by the producer. It is based on the testing of the product and the health risks associated with its storage.

While it is possible products may be safe to consumer after the use by date, the average consumer will not have the necessary testing equipment to determine if the food is likely to he a health risk.

As indicated above,

As a result, it is not recommended that anyone consume foods beyond the use by date unless the food can be adequate tested to ensure it is still safe. For the average consumer, it is not possible to do such testing within the home.

It is worth noting that being in the hospitality industry, if we served out of date foods to our guests and they were poisoned, then we would be liable and subject to prosecution. If one consumes food beyond the use by date, it is their own risk and there is a increased risk that it could result in food poisoning.

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As I said, it is up to the producer to determine the UBD and BBD on their products. Glad you agree. But, there is a very big responsibility on that producer to properly test every part of their processes and food handling and be accountable for what they display on what they sell, and be accountable if something goes wrong.
My experience with the producer of the milk brand I buy is that they are conservative in their labeling and at least by smell and taste test it lasts longer than their labeled UBD. I can’t say that about most other products I buy, especially packaged meats like ham and chicken, which rarely last, once opened, to the stated UBD.


Is the suggestion that the UBD or BBD is conditional on the product not being opened?

Some sealed products are vacuum sealed, others packaged tight to minimise trapped air. Modified atmosphere packaging is also used to improve storage life.

BOC and AirLiquide both offer products to the industry.

How it’s done in the west?

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Thank goodness for that.

Whilst doing our weekly shop at our local Coles this afternoon, I saw the staff member who usually does the markdowns in the meat department finish printing out a very long row of mark down labels following which she was opening cardboard cartons of 400gm packs of Coles Beef Sizzle Steak which were all marked Best Before 07.10.2020, affixing the labels, and placing the packs on display.

They were all marked down from $11.00 each to just $2.50 each, a discount of around 77%.

She then proceeded to the chicken section, and when I returned shortly after, she had marked down random weight packs of Coles chicken breast strips which are priced at $17.00/kg, and were also marked Best Before 07.10.2020, by 85%.

We don’t eat the sizzle steak as we find it tough and dry and we don’t cook stir fries but I grabbed a pack of the steak and 2 packs of the chicken as our little dog absolutely loves both meat and chicken and they were much cheaper than his pet food.

It appears that Coles stock control leaves a lot to be desired, at least from Coles perspective.

It won’t be conservative and won’t be different to any other milk producer. Each milk processor needs to ensure their products meet the same food safety requirements. They will test their milk to achieve what is required by all producers to ensure their milk is safe to drink on or before the use by date. They will regularly test milk on pasteurisation to determine CFUs to ensure pasteurisation has been achieved (for product quality). Once quality is confirmed, they will be date stamped with industry standard use by dates.

In Australia, the industry use by date for pasteurised milk is 12-14 days.

It is also worth noting that UHT milk has a best before date and use by date. The use by date is set by the consumer on opening/breaking the seal on a UHT container.

The reason why Australia mandates pasteurisation for fresh milk (products) is due to variability in CFUs in raw milk. Some raw milk may be safe, some may be of risk. Pasteurisation manages these risks.


Around and around we go @phb. I started long ago now saying that I buy Pura light start milk because it has always given me a good 5 days past the indicated use by date before any indication of deterioration. Don’t care about other milk brands, don’t care about whatever argument you have so far presented. It is my brand of choice precisely because of this attribute, and hasn’t let me down (or obviously caused any issues with health).

No @mark_m you are saying that. Lots of products are packaged for a long shelf life and a corresponding use by date reflects the shelf life. Once they are opened, that is out the window and the tiny print comes into play. A jar of pasta sauce, take the lid off and it is refrigerate and use within 3 days. My packet of bacon yet unopened is use by date 25 November, but the tiny little print right down the bottom says once opened you have 3 days to consume.

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As I indicated above, consuming past a use by date on a product, there are risks that the level of bacterial growth may cause health impacts/food poisoning. One can chose to take this risk, but the use by date is there for a reason.

Milk can also have bacterial levels which can cause health impacts before any indication of deterioration (e.g. change in smell and or sight). Unless one tests the CFU of the milk (which can be done in a laboratory) after the use by date and before consuming, it is a like playing Russian roulette.

Use by dates are like wearing seat belts. If one doesn’t have an accident over one’s past driving life and has chosen not to wear a seat belt while driving, it doesn’t mean seat belts are not needed. It is only when an accident happens, one knows their value.

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I fully appreciate what you are saying @phb. I understand the risks with not observing use by dates in specific areas. You have your views, I have mine. Let’s just not bore the crap out of others with this endless to and fro.

As an addition to your post:

""Under the Food Standards Code, dairy manufacturers are required to put in place food safety programs to assure the safety of their final products.

These programs are based on a scientific assessment of the potential hazards associated with a dairy product and the identification of control measures designed to eliminate those hazards. Manufacturers then put in place monitoring programs to ensure the control measures are working effectively, thereby minimising food safety risks.

In Victoria, Dairy Food Safety Victoria (DFSV) is responsible for regulating the dairy industry to ensure the standards are maintained.

Using past that date is at the risk of the user, their risk and while some may avoid an issue it may pay back with a vengeance when it does “bite”. As a matter of good practice in health and safety the use of products past their use by date cannot be supported nor do the Standards as set down support that usage.