Mother knows best

‘Mother knows best’ is a familiar expression to those of us of a certain age. And no doubt ‘Mother’ would completely agree with the opening statement. When times are hard and every trip to the shops increases your risk of catching COVID-19 then why not use a little common sense, if the food looks okay and doesn’t smell off then there’s no harm surely?

Well, food may contain bacteria and if stored for too long or at the wrong temperature, can cause food poisoning, that’s why. So in these troubled times it’s really important to understand the different types of dates and advice on food packaging.

Use by dates

A use by date on food is about safety. This is the most important date to remember. Foods can be eaten until the use by date but definitely not after. You will generally see use by dates on food that goes off quickly, such as meat products or bagged salads.

For the use by date to be a valid guide, you must carefully follow storage instructions. For example, if the instructions on the packaging tell you to refrigerate after opening, you should keep the food in a fridge at 5°C or below.

After the use by date, don’t eat it, cook it or freeze it. The food could be unsafe to eat or drink, even if it has been stored correctly and looks and smells fine. A lot of foods, including meat and milk, can be frozen before the use-by date though so particularly now, plan ahead.

Best before dates

The best before date, sometimes shown as BBE (best before end), is about quality and not safety. The food will be safe to eat after this date but may not be at its best. Its flavour and texture might not be as good. Best before dates appear on a wide range of foods including frozen foods, dried foods and tinned foods.

Of course, the best before date will only be accurate if the food is stored according to the instructions on the packaging.

Plan ahead

Get into the habit of checking what you already have in the fridge and freezer before you go shopping. Look out for foods that are approaching their use-by date and other fresh foods that can go off over time and try to use them up first. This includes fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, cheese, milk or other dairy products.

Don’t trust the sniff test

Food can look and smell fine even after its use by date, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe to eat. It could still be contaminated. Remember, you cannot see, smell or taste the bacteria that cause food poisoning.

Freeze and defrost your food correctly

Food properly frozen won’t deteriorate and bacteria cannot grow in it, so when frozen it can’t become more unsafe. Once defrosted however, the pause button is off. Only defrost food as you need it and make sure it’s served and eaten within 24 hours. Once food has been defrosted, use it within 24 hours and cook it until steaming hot before serving.

So, Mother doesn’t know best?

In many things your Mum was right, you did look terrible in those trousers and that hairstyle really didn’t suit you. But on the ‘a little bit of mould never hurt anyone’ side of things, she was just plain wrong. Mind you you’re a braver man than me if you tell her!

We’re still here for you and happy to help through all of this!

Our team at the Food Hygiene Company is working from home for the time being, but we’re still here for you and happy to answer any questions you might have about food hygiene training for your business.

Our working hours are Monday to Friday, 9am to 5.30pm, and you can give us a call during these hours on 01327 552136. Alternatively, you can get in touch with us via the live chat feature on this website or by email at

We’re committed to food hygiene here at the Food Hygiene Company and our mission has always been to empower you to keep yourselves, your staff, and your customers safe—now and every day.

Please click here for more information or to browse our range of accredited online food hygiene training courses.