Back, I was using the term “Expiry Date”. Then my higher ups argued about it. They insisted on using the other term, the “Best Before Date”. Why? Because the first term is negative while the second is positive. The first clearly states the food is expired or not safe for consumption after the indicated date. The second has a completely different meaning. The commodity is at its peak before the written date, quality begins to lower after, but not necessarily not safe to eat.
If the manufacturer is concerned about product quality, then, his choice of open-date marking is “best before date”. He wants the product on its top shape before touching consumer palate. When promised product quality changes, even if it is safe to eat, there is a high chance the customer won’t buy again. When if comes to food commodity, the primary category of our choice is flavor.
FDA.gov.ph has official explanation of the two terms.
“Best before date” is the date which signifies the end of the period, beyond which certain quality of the products will be expected to deteriorate. On the other hand, “Expiration date” is when the estimated shelf-life of the product has ended, beyond which the quality and safety of the product has significantly deteriorated. Thus, foods beyond their expiration date are not marketable and consumable.
Recently, someone told me that I should use “Expiry Date” instead. I was curious why. There must be some kind of FDA ruling on this, that I could not find in a hard to navigate FDA website. Mr Google is way simple and directed me to December 2014 news.
Food and Drug Administration issued an order prohibiting the use of Best Before Date and mandatory use of Expiry Date. The order also prohibits the short date style. The month and year should be spelled out to avoid consumer confusion. Manufacturers have until October 2015 to comply.
It was decided then. FDA ruling give us no option but use the Expiry Date thing.
Will this do the trick in avoiding consumer confusion? I guess not. If the food on shelf is past beyond expiry, no consumer will buy except when he didn’t notice the date indicated. This happens more than 50% of the time.
The situation is different if the item is on sale. A sudden price drop is very temping. In reality the term is there to warn public that specific food is nearing its end life or just nearing quality degradation but not necessarily not safe to eat. Many will buy a pack or two as a test sample then will come back for more if it seems okay.
update as of July 2016
This supersedes my previous post “The Difference Between Best Before and Expiry Date“
Marvin is the lead chocolate maker of Ben and Lyn Chocolate Inc. Has strong background in food research and development. Occasionally conducts training and lectures. Lecturer of Cocoa Foundation of the Philippines. Do coaching and consultancy services on his free time.