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A Quick Guide to ‘Best Before’ Dates

9 June 2017 — Cheese Facts, Features, Health Info

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.

2 thoughts on “A Quick Guide to ‘Best Before’ Dates

  1. I work for one of the big supermarkets on the deli counter and there is a bit of an argument going on at my local store as to whether 2 days life should be taken off a cheese with a best before date.For years we have always taken the cheese to it’s bb date then it still has 2 days life on the ticket etc.But someone new with a little bit of so called authority and not a lot of experience has decided we should take 2 days life off before the bb date.Can you please clarify what is the right thing to do…hope you get the jist of what I’m saying…

    1. Hi we’re not quite sure what you mean by taking two days off? We cant really comment on what supermarkets do because they use a system of ‘shelf life’ which is unrelated to the Best Before date as advertised by the cheese producer and is decided internally by the supermarket itself. Are you talking about this element?

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