A Quick Guide to ‘Best Before’ Dates

According to one of the UK's supermarkets over 55% of us throw away anything that is past its Best Before date! What an enormous waste we say, especially when the food that has been thrown away has been lovingly and intelligently made by the hand of a highly skilled cheese maker; or in otherwords 'cheese'. If a cheese is thrown away in the days after its Best Before date then two heinous acts are committed: firstly all of that hard work and care that the producer has put in are in vain and secondly a perfectly good and healthy cheese, most likely in the very peak of its condition is lost.

To clarify the different kinds of dates on foods here is a short breakdown:

A Sell By or Display Until date is only for use by the retailer to inform their own stock management and is not in any way relevant to the consumer.

A Use By date signifies the end of the period after which the food should not be consumed because of health and safety reasons. Cheeses aren't normally given a 'Use By' date apart from some fresh cheeses such as Ricotta and Bocconcinni, which therefore, technically, shouldn't be consumed past this date.

The Best Before date signifies the end of the period during which the food, if stored in accordance with the stated storage conditions, will retain its specific qualities as promised by the retailer. Most cheeses are coded with a Best Before date so when and whether to eat it is therefore a decision for the consumer. Moulds added to cheese to either create their rind, change their colour, taste or texture, will continue to grow but that doesn't mean the cheese is not in great health. Indeed many cheeses simply get better and better with age. Most naturally occurring moulds that grow after a Best Before date caneither be simply scraped or cut off.

Hard cheeses such as Cheddar and Parmesan can have a Best Before date of up to or more than 12 months. Soft Cheeses, washed rind cheeses and soft goat's cheeses tend to have shorter Best Before dates because as they mature throughout their life-span, they become softer and creamier with a more developed flavour as they age. If that flavour, for example in the case of goat's cheese, is a strong one anyway, they can become almost too strong sometimes with different tastes such as ammonia if they are eaten too long after their Best Before date.

However most soft cheeses, blue cheeses and washed rind cheeses remain in great condition well after their Best Before date has expired and simply continue to mature. For this reason, they are at their peak close to their Best Before date. When buying soft cheeses or washed rind cheeses try to select cheese with a Best Before that is close to its date when you will be serving to get the best out of them.

Our policy at Pong is to send soft cheeses out with NO LESS than seven days Best Before on them; we feel this is the best compromise between the cheese being in great condition for eating but long enough to delay eating if it's not for immediate use. Blue and hard cheeses are sent out with more than three weeks Best Before on them.

If you are ordering for a specific event on a certain date such as, for example, a party or Christmas we would always recommend choosing a delivery date of about two or three days before the event so the cheese is in the best possible condition on arrival.

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I have a block of cheese and the best before date is today. I'm going to make a grilled cheese with this cheese. So if i die, be sure to hold yourself responsible lol.

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chelsea on Mon July 15, 2013, 19:01:38

can you get food posining from boursin thats nearly 2months past its best before date?

Malena on Wed July 03, 2013, 05:29:54

Hi there, I'm sorry to just be getting back to you, but yes, i think that you prabobly got an overripe cheese. That's too bad, and well worth talking to the store about. If they're good cheesemongers, I'd think they would reimburse you in $ or in a fresher cheese. You're right that cheese is spendy: good cheese takes milk from responsibly raised cows, the skills of an experienced cheesemaker, and time, so I look at artisanal cheese, big or small as a an occasional treat that supports a lot of good people. You're right though that you can often get a great deal on cheeses cut from larger wheels my fave local cheesemonger has a basket of cheese ends that's a wonderful resource.

Leigh on Thu February 14, 2013, 10:38:08

We have some camembert in the fridge "use by date" 3 Feb - should I throw it away or would it be OK to bake? Today is 14 Feb.

Anonymous on Thu January 10, 2013, 05:35:19

What about unpasturized soft cheese?

Mias on Sat December 29, 2012, 18:35:16

I hate it when I buy cheese, say Chedder, and it says eat within 3 days or 7 days of opening. I am sure it must be ok for longer if kept nicely in a fridge? Yes? I hope so, have just eaten some :)

Anonymous on Fri August 17, 2012, 10:10:00

My nose tells me how well the cheese are doing.

Bobbie on Fri June 15, 2012, 11:36:04

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Colin on Fri December 16, 2011, 10:03:13

Best before dates etc. are just another way of the government and the large companies making sure we are 'good' consumers and make us throw away perfectly good food because we think it is bad or dangerous past its date.

I have eaten cheese and other items that has been way past its date and I have never been ill in 50 years. How can cheese have a best by date when some vintage cheeses can be years old?

All these labels do is make us throw away perfectly good food! That is terrible when you think of the people on this planet who are starving to death as we speak!

Western bureaucracy has a lot to answer for!

Sharon Philpott on Fri November 18, 2011, 18:02:24

The info you have provided on 'Best Before' dates etc., has been really informative and useful. Thank you so much.

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