Food Waste

Food Expiry Dates Demystified: A Guide to Understanding Best Before and Use By Dates in Dubai

In a world of abundant food choices and varying expiry labels, it’s easy to get confused and throw away food that is still good, or that can be saved with a proper recipe. Food safety is a must in UAE and understanding how to correctly read a label is crucial to ensure the freshness and quality of the products we consume. In this guide, we will demystify the terms "Best Before" and "Use By" dates, shedding light on their significance and helping you make informed choices to minimize food waste and maximize your culinary experiences.

How to read food labels in UAE

Based on the UAE’s law food labels must be written in Arabic only or Arabic/English. The production and expiry dates must be printed by the original producer and all the extra stickers, like the organic certification, the halal logo, the non-OGM label, etc. must be approved by UAE authorities before the product is put on the market. All the stickers you find on imported items are approved by UAE law. In addition, only a single set of expiration dates is permitted and must be printed in the following order:

  • Day/month/year, for products with a shelf life of three (3) months or less.
  • Day/month/year or month/year for products with a shelf life longer than three (3) months. Under the month/year format, the last day of the month is considered the expiry date. The month may be printed in numbers or letters.

Best Before Dates: Quality Indicator

The "Best Before" date printed on food packaging refers to the manufacturer's estimate of when the product is at its best in terms of taste and quality. It is not a strict indicator of safety, it is a suggestion. When foods pass their best before dates are generally still safe to eat if stored properly and show no signs of spoilage, such as an off smell or unusual texture.

When is passed the date on a food labeled with the Best Before Date trust your senses before throwing it away. Smell it, taste it, and examine the food. If it appears and smells normal, it's likely still good to eat. However, if you are not sure about the safety of consuming it you can either freeze it or cook it, the extreme heat/cold will kill all the possible bad bacteria. Moreover, properly storing products in cool, dry places away from direct sunlight help to extend their shelf life. Finally, use your common sense and consume the products reasonably soon after the best-before date for the best taste and quality.

Use By Dates: Safety Indicator

The "Use By" date is a stricter guideline, mainly applied to fresher foods such as dairy products, meats, and ready-to-eat meals. This date indicates the last day on which the product can be safely consumed. It's essential to follow these dates closely to ensure food safety, as items past their use-by dates might pose health risks.

In order to safely consume with a Use By Dates label is better to respect the date on the etiquette, minimizing the use-by date the risk of foodborne illnesses. In case you are not going to consume that food immediately, you can refrigerate or freeze it to extend its usability. However, if you are in doubt if a product has passed its use-by date or shows signs of spoilage, it's safer to discard it. In this case if you can't save that food, consider composting it. Composting not only reduces waste but also enriches your soil. If you have a garden you can start your own compost pile, otherwise many communities offer composting program like one of WIN Sustainably partners, Chefseye is trying it’s best to save the food using different methods.

Reducing Food Waste: Your Role

Dubai's food regulations emphasize consumer protection and food safety. The Dubai Municipality sets stringent guidelines for food labeling and storage, ensuring that consumers have access to accurate information about the products they purchase. As a consumer, it's important for you to be aware of these regulations and know how to read a label in order to have the best food experience. In fact, understanding food expiry dates not only contributes to your safety but also helps reduce food waste. By learning to differentiate between best-before and use-by dates, you can make informed choices about what to purchase and when to consume it. Proper storage, responsible consumption, and a smart approach to recognizing signs of spoilage are essential steps in minimizing food waste and its impact on the environment.

Pro tips: Did you ever think about how much food is wasted by the food industry in Dubai, even before reaching a table? Well, around the 38% of daily food production ends up in in the landfill, data that jumps up to 60% during Ramadan. If you want to help out in fighting this situation and enjoy a delicious sustainable meal for a discounted price download NOW the WIN Sustainably app! It’s so easy to use:

1. Select your favourite spot in town,

2. Choose your WIN Box (sweet or savory, which one is your favourite?),

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4. Collect your sustainable meal and enjoy it!

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In conclusion, knowing how to read label and recognize the different food expiry dates is a valuable skill. Remember, the "Best Before" date refers to quality, while the "Use By" date refer to safety. Embrace a mindful approach to shopping, storing, and consuming food, and you'll not only enhance your culinary experiences but also contribute to a healthier, more sustainable community.