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In other words, it might refer to whether a commodity should no longer be on a pantry shelf (unfit for use), or just no longer on a supermarket shelf (unfit for sale, but not yet unfit for use).It applies to cosmetics, foods and beverages, medical devices, medicines, explosives, pharmaceutical drugs, chemicals, tires, batteries and many other perishable items.They added: “There are legitimate reasons why some products may change from a ‘best before’ date to a ‘use by’, for example due to changes in ingredients, preservatives or processing and packaging technologies, but this decision should always be made on the basis of food safety, rather than becoming a default position.”She continued: “As humans we have remarkable systems and senses – sight, smell and taste, mainly – for telling if food has ‘gone off’ or is inedible.

In some regions, an advisory best before, mandatory use by or freshness date is required on packaged perishable foods.

The concept of expiration date is related but legally distinct in some jurisdictions.

But after 40 years of letting us guess, the grocery industry has made moves to clear up the confusion.

On Wednesday, the Food Marketing Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the two largest trade groups for the grocery industry, announced that they’ve adopted standardized, voluntary regulations to clear up what product date labels mean.

"Overly cautious" and "restrictive" use by dates on food should be scrapped according to new draft Government guidance, and instead should be replaced with best before dates.