There is a huge amount of confusion about when products are safe to use and when they are not, and this confusion is leading to many of us chucking products in the bin when they are still safe to use. The government has pledged to tackle this waste, and is seeking a move to a clearer form of labelling on both food and cosmetic products, which have recently started to feature similar use by data. So how do you know when something is safe to use and something is not?
A sell by date doesn’t really tell you anything. Sell by dates are put on by the retailers or the food manufacturers as an indication when something should be taken off the shelves. A sell by date is found on products which have a short lifespan and do not spend long on the supermarket shelves, so products such as fresh meat, bread or fruit.
Sell by dates are not found on longer life tinned products or cosmetic products such as your favourite Butter London lip gloss or nail varnish. It is perfectly safe to eat a product which has passed its sell by date, as long as it is within the use by date.
As a consumer, use by dates should be the dates we are looking at rather than the sell by dates. A use by date is usually a few days later than a sell by date and means that the product should be used by this date. The manufacturers put use by dates on short shelf life products like yoghurt and meat, and these are the one date which should be adhered to.
Products can go off very quickly, and there are real food poisoning risks in eating meat, shellfish or dairy products which have passed their use by date. If you have bought a joint of meat or some vegetables which are fast approaching their sell by date, they can be frozen and defrosted to use at a later date.
Best before is another one of those terms which gives an indication of a product’s freshness, but needn’t be stuck to rigidly. A can of beans which is labelled Best Before December 2014 isn’t going to kill you if you eat it on January 1, 2015. All the manufacturer is saying is that after the stated date the product may begin to lose flavour and it is best to eat it sooner rather than later. A product which is several years past its best before date should be discarded.
On cosmetics such as the Butter London lip gloss, labelling is different. The labels show a little pot with a number above it, typically 6, 12, 18 or 24. These are the number of months which the product can be safely used for. Some cosmetic products such as mascaras can be a breeding ground for germs, and you don’t really want to be sticking a 5 year old mascara wand near your eyes.
Plaisirs Boutique offer a range of Butter London organic and preservative free cosmetics which naturally remain fresh