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Best Before-Date And Beyond: What Lasts How Long?

Imagine opening your fridge and – oh no! The best before-date on your milk has expired!
What’s your next step? Do you throw it away? Do you have second thoughts, but at least give it a try? 

In fact, you can still use food after the best before-date for a few days without any problems! And to let you know how long you can even be almost 100% sure that everything is still okay, I have put together a little list for you!

But before we get to the list, here is some general information about what the best before-date stands for:

"Best Before" And "Use By"

There are two different dates that you can find on your packaging. The best before-date counts more as a recommendation, while the “use by”-date, is best not exceeded. Look carefully, because there is a big difference between the two!

Best Before

The best before-date is there to show you until when food can guarantee its taste, smell and nutritional value. But only if it has been unopened and properly stored the entire time (Verbraucherzentrale, 2021; Collart/Interis, 2018, p. 15). After this date, the quality of the product is most likely no longer ideal, but it can still be safely consumed if handled and stored properly (Collart/Interis, 2018, p. 15). In fact, it is often the case that some manufacturers set the best before-date early to play it safe (Verbraucherzentrale, 2021).

Therefore, it is not really a strict expiration date per se, but rather a measure of food quality, which simply starts to slowly decline after the end of the best-before date (Obersteiner/Schwödt, n.d., p. 7).

Use By

The use by-, or expiration date, on the other hand, is actually an end date, as it shows the last recommended day you should eat the product (Collart/Interis, 2018, p. 15; Verbraucherzentrale, 2021). Most often, it is used when foods are particularly sensitive or easy to spoil. This includes, for example, all kinds of meat, fresh fish or raw milk. If the date expires, there may even be a health hazard when consumed, so – hands off!

It is especially important to maintain the recommended product’s cooling temperatures – even on the way home (for example through a cooling bag). (Obersteiner/Schwödt, n.d., p. 7; Verbraucherzentrale, 2021).

How Long Does Which Food Last - Beyond Their Best Before-Date?

The following recommendations are provided in brief by the Verbraucherzentrale Hamburg (Verbraucherzentrale Hamburg e.V., 2015):

Grain Products

Foto by David Becker on Unsplash
  • As a rule, edible for a long time after expiry of the best before-date
  • In case of mold, dispose of it completely

If stored dry, you can use it for many months after the best before-date.


If stored dry, you can use it for many months after the best before-date.


If stored dry, you can use it for many months after the best before-date.

Animal Produce

picture for the category animal produce
Foto by Wolfgang Rottmann on Unsplash
  • Unopened after expiration of the best before-date usually still good for at least three days
  • If opened, fresh milk can be stored in the refrigerator for about three days and UHT-milk for up to seven days.
  • Attention: UHT milk does not turn sour when it spoils

Typically still good for at least two weeks after the expiration date, then best to use for baking or cooking.

  • Typically still good for at least several days after expiration of the best before date.
  • If moldy, dispose of it completely
  • Exception hard cheese: Cut away moldy areas generously


picture representing the category beverages
Foto by Anna Wlodarczyk on Unsplash
  • Shelf life several months after expiration if unopened
  • Loss of flavor possible
  • Unopened in a glas bottle, it will be good for up to twelve months after the best before-date
  • In a carton, up to eight months
  • In a plastic bottle, up to three months
  • If the juice has been opened, you should try to finish it after a few days

Usually does not have a best before date, shelf life varies depending on quality.

Ready-Made Food

Foto by Yulia Khlebnikova on Unsplash
Foto by Yulia Khlebnikova on Unsplash
  • Unopened, still good for many months beyond the best before date
  • If the lid is bulging or the can is damaged: throw it away.
  • After opening: Canned, tinned or jarred products can be kept for approx. three days, in the case of acidic products even slightly longer
  • Unopened, several months beyond best before-date
  • In case of mold:
    • products with more than 50% sugar remove mold generously
    • discard products with less than 50% sugar
Frozen Food

Unopened, still good for a few months after expiration date – if cooled consistently.

And now, that you are a little smarter about the rules of the best before-dates, maybe you feel confident to do our test about which food waste type you are!


Collart, Alba J.; Interis, Matthew G. (2018). Consumer Imperfect Information in the Market forExpired and Nearly Expired Foods and Implicationsfor Reducing Food Waste. In: Sustainability (10).

Obersteiner, Gudrun; Schwödt, Sandra (n.d.). Lebensmittelabfälle erkennen und vermeiden in der Außer-Haus-Verplegung. Institut für Abfallwirtschaft. Universität für Bodenkultur Wien. Accessed through: [01.06.2021]

Verbraucherzentrale Hamburg (2015). Mindesthaltbarkeit. Wann muss ich Lebensmittel wirklich wegwerfen? Accessed through: [01.06.2021].

Verbraucherzentrale (). Mindesthaltbarkeitsdatum (MHD) ist nicht gleich Verbrauchsdatum.
Accessed through: [01.06.2021].


Title Image by Icons8 Team on Unsplash

Grain Image by David Becker on Unsplash

Animal Produce-Image by Wolfgang Rottmann on Unsplash

Beverage-Image by Anna Wlodarczyk on Unsplash

Ready-Made Food-Image by Yulia Khlebnikova on Unsplash

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Manual

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