Food Sell-by Dates FAQs

As an ethical retailer, we have always worked hard to lead the way in environmental and sustainable initiatives. 

We are aware that for some people, this change in shopping behaviour might be new or strange, and we want to make sure we have as much information and help about the removal of sell-by dates as possible.

Please read below for some of our most frequently asked questions and answers. 

If you have any feedback or questions, please email

Why are Co-op doing this?

Households throw away tons of food each year though it is believe that much of the food that is binned is still ok to eat. Much of this problem is down to how products are labelled in store.

Just because a product has a ‘Best before’ date does not mean that it is inedible. This is what we are hoping we can change and reduce food waste.

What's the difference between use by, sell by and best before dates on food?

If an item has a ‘Use by’ date, it means that it has a limited time that it has to be eaten by, it is strongly advised not to eat something if the use by date has passed. Things with use by dates usually need eating within three days of opening too.

Even if the food smells and looks okay, it is recommended that it is thrown away to be safe. This is usually the case with meat or fish.

Unlike 'use by', ‘best before’ dates are a guide to food quality NOT safety. This means it is usually safe to eat after the date on the packaging, but it might not be as tasty. Do note that eggs tend to be an exception to this rule and it is recommended to eat these by the date shown.

‘Display until’ and ‘sell by’ are intended to be a guide for retailers rather than a shopper to help manage stock control.

How do I know if something is okay to eat / consume?

It's all about taking the time to inspect what you are going to eat. If it looks to have mould, appears to be curdled, or has a sour or off smell, it usually is enough to know if it is not fit for eating.

Why is the focus on dairy products?

Yogurts and similar dairy products are one of the largest areas of food waste. It is often the case that the shelf life of the goods last longer than what is shown on the packaging. Yoghurt can be safe to eat if stored correctly and unopened in a fridge after the date mark shown. So, by removing the best before dates, we are making a move to help reduce food waste.

However, we do still encourage customers to use their own judgement on the quality of the product if it is bought after its best before date.

What about other items in store, such as produce or bread?

At the time of writing, we are introducing this to our chilled and dairy own-brand range in stores. But, that is not to say that this behaviour cannot be adopted for more groceries around the store and we encourage our customers and Members to shop with their own quality checks.

We are hoping that we can expand this principle to other products across the store and in time, with our local suppliers and producers too. Watch this space.

Is this Coop's way of getting around having poor quality or outdated food stock on your shelves?

No. We're doing this as it goes hand in hand with our values around sustainability, the environment, and doing what is right for our customers and our Members.

Our colleagues will still continue their attentive routine of checking and rotating stock as per usual to ensure that all products we sell are meeting requirements for sale and safety. They will also have codes on the goods to reference the items quality and freshness.

If you do buy something an item where it is inedible, your statutory rights do remain, and we encourage islanders to return the product with proof of purchase (i.e. receipt) for a refund.

Will the price different?

We know that it would not be fair or ethical to charge full price for an item that is nearing its end date. Therefore, goods which still can be enjoyed but are not at their best quality will be reduced in price. 

If you find this isn't the case with any of the items in store, please ask one of our colleagues to help. 

How do I get the best out of what I buy?

Download and keep our very own produce storage guide to know the best way to keep and get the most out of your grocery shopping.