Best before dates
The FIC uses the term 'date of minimum durability' to refer to a 'best before' date, this being the date until which the food retains its specific properties when properly stored. The basic requirement is for the indication of 'best before' accompanied by a day, month and year in that order in uncoded form. Foods which will not keep for more than 3 months may be marked with just a day and month, those with a life between 3 and 18 months may be marked with 'best before end' and just a month and year, and those with a life of more than 18 months may be marked with 'best before end' and just a year.
Some foods are exempt from minimum durability marking; these include fresh fruit and vegetables, wine and some other alcoholic beverages, very short life bakers' wares and some very long life products such as salt and sugar.
Use by dates
In the place of a durability date, foods which are microbiologically highly perishable and therefore likely after a short period to constitute an immediate danger to health, should be marked with a 'use by' date. The words 'use by' must be accompanied by a day, a month and possibly a year in that order in uncoded form. Use by dates must be indicated on individual prepacked portions where these exist within the complete unit which is actually sold.
Date of freezing
Frozen meat, frozen meat preparations and frozen unprocessed fishery products must be marked with a date of freezing or date of first freezing if the product has been frozen more than once. This should comprise the words 'frozen on' accompanied by a day, a month and a year in that order in uncoded form.
In all cases, rather than the date being with the explanatory words, the words can be accompanied by a reference to where the date is given elsewhere on the labelling, e.g. 'best before end - see base of pack'.