Food shelf life: how long before expiry?

Verified on 26/03/2023 by Alexane Flament, Editor
Durée de conservation des aliments : combien de temps avant la péremption ?

« Each pre-packaged product has a time limit for consumption.

But can we eat our food beyond its best-before date?

Research by the UK charity Wrap shows that 20% of domestic food waste could be avoided if people had a better understanding of use-by dates and minimum durability dates.


Use-by date (DLC)

The best-before date (BBD) is indicated on packaging by the words  » Use by… ».

This date must be respected: beyond the date indicated, the food is not consumable and may present health risks.

The best-before date is often affixed to foods that can be stored in the refrigerator and expire quickly. This applies, for example, to :

  • Cured meats (e.g. cooked hams and rillettes must not exceed this best-before date, but dried sausages can be kept longer unless the product has changed in appearance or smell, in which case they should be thrown out),
  • Fresh meats and fish (after the best-before date, various bacteria and toxins can develop in large quantities, leading to food poisoning),
  • Dairy products,
  • Refrigerated ready meals.

Be careful, though: an opened product does not retain the same BBD!

A little tip: the best-before date is just one indicator. Other factors, such as bulging packaging, lack of « pop » when a jar is opened, an unpleasant odor or a suspicious color, can also mean that the product should be thrown out!

Minimum durability date (MDD)

The date of minimum durability (DDM) is indicated on packaging by the words  » Best before… ».

Once the expiry date has passed, it is not necessarily necessary to discard the products concerned. Products can still be consumed without risk to health.

This applies, for example, to :

  • Coffee,
  • Dried cakes (they keep for a long time, but be sure to store them in good conditions to avoid moths, hardening or mildew),
  • Tinned food (beyond the best-before date, the product loses its taste qualities without posing a health hazard),
  • Juices, sauces and compotes (they keep for a very long time unopened).

But did you know that some products never expire? Like salt, sugar, chocolate, vinegar and honey! All you need to do is store them in the right conditions.