Doctor explains must-know expiry date warning to prevent 'throwing food away'

Looking in fridge
-Credit: (Image: Getty Images)

Before you chuck out everything in your fridge, it's essential to get clued up on what those food safety labels really mean.

We've all been there, splashing out on the weekly shop only to end up tossing food that hasn't been eaten by its 'best before' date. It's a real pain to dump food that looks perfectly edible, feeling like you're just throwing cash straight into the bin.

Business Waste reports a staggering 9.5 million tonnes of food waste is chucked by the UK annually. Sure, some of it has to go, but did you know certain foods are safe to eat even after their 'best before' dates have passed?

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Dr Karan Raj, an NHS surgeon and social media savvy doc, took to TikTok with a word of advice for his followers. He said: "Before you throw away your food, make sure you're reading the food safety labels correctly."

Ever puzzled over the terms on the back of your food packets?

Phrases like 'sell by' and 'use by' aren't just random - they're key to understanding food safety. Dr Raj added: "First, you've got 'sell by' dates, this is something just for the people who work in stores to know when to take their products off the shelves."

However, Dr Raj clarified this isn't necessarily a concern when deciding whether to consume something. "This date is not a standard of food safety," he stated.

He also explained 'best before' dates, which "indicate when a product will be at its best flavour or quality".

Contrary to popular belief, this is "not a purchase or safety date, it's more of a 'when is it tasty' date," he added. According to Dr Raj, most tinned food can safely be consumed "two to five years after this date as long as they've been stored correctly, in a cool, dry place".

As for dry rice, if stored in the box, it can still be eaten "five years past this date, if stored in the box".

Dr Raj also explained 'eat by' or 'use by' dates: "These indicate the last day an item will be at peak quality. The only exception to this is infant formula. Do not use baby formula after this date."

Finally, Dr Raj warned: "If you see food labels that says something 'expires' on a certain date, especially if it's meat or dairy, you should probably not look to test that line."

However, most of the time, you can rely on your "senses to decide if something's expired or not". For instance, if you "notice an odd smell, a changing texture or the presence of mould or bulging cans, you should probably throw it away."