The Health Star Ratings appear on packaged items allowing you to compare similar products for the healthier option. However, this is not the only marking that you need to take notice of to ensure you stay healthy. All packaged items will feature one of two types of date markings: best before or use by. But what is the difference between these two dates?

Best before

Packaged items that feature a best before date are generally safe to consume after that date, they just may have lost some of their quality. You may even be able to pick up a bargain at your local supermarket as stores can sell items past their best before dates so long as it’s not damaged or deteriorated, and is safe to consume.

Foods that are most likely to use a best before date include canned foods, frozen foods, cereals, biscuits, sauces, confectionery, dried goods, sugar, flour and other similar packaged products.


For your health and safety, you should never eat any packaged item after its use by date, even if it looks and smells okay. The use by date is placed on packaged food items to tell you the safe timeframe to consume that product. If your item is past that date, the only thing you should do is dispose of it safely. It is illegal for supermarkets to sell items after their use by date.

Foods that will display a use-by date include most perishable items, especially those needed to be stored in the fridge. This includes dairy or meat produce, ready prepared fresh foods such as salads, and prepared fish.

Other date markings

A third date may be introduced on bread products as bread can either display a ‘baked on’ or ‘baked for’ date on its label if the shelf life is less than seven days.

For more information about food labelling, check out the Food Standards Australia New Zealand website.

Next time you’re out shopping, remember these top tips to keep you and your family healthy and safe:

  1. Use the Health Star Rating to compare similar packaged products to find the healthier option.
  2. Check the best before or use by dates.
  3. Follow storage and cooking instructions on the label.
  4. Try to eat a variety of foods from the five food groups.