The ‘best before‘ date is simply a guideline – a guarantee by the manufacturers – that the food they process and package will retain its specific properties such as smell or taste up to the specified date as long as it is properly stored. If butter, jam or noodles have expired, it means: use on your senses and check the items carefully. If you notice any changes in colour, consistency, smell or taste, the food should be discarded.
The BBD therefore means the date until when the food retains its expected quality. In addition to that, some countries also have a ‘use by‘ date on products. After expiration of the ‘use by‘ date, the food should not be used.
While most countries use the BBD system, the UK, Japan and Norway use ‘double best-before dates’. The corresponding food items in these countries are labelled with a sell-by date, which indicates for how long they can be sold in stores, as well as an expiry date, which indicates the actual time at which food is considered to be fit for human consumption. The purpose is to clear up misunderstandings.