Expiry and Distribution – A Quick Explainer

Foodbank Victoria receives a wide variety of food and grocery products from our donors. Many of our products come to us because they are close to the end of their shelf life, and we work hard to ensure that those products are supplied to our agency partners as quickly as possible.

Under Australian (and NZ) Food Safety Standards, there are two main types of expiry dates – ‘Best Before’ and ‘Use By’. Most food products you will see at Foodbank Victoria and on your supermarket shelves use one of these formats.

Use By Date (UBD)

This is a mark of product safety. You should not supply or consume foods after their Use By Date, and it is illegal to sell a product after its Use By has passed without an official shelf life extension from the product manufacturer. In some cases, shelf life can be extended by freezing a product before its Use By Date. Once thawed, it should be used immediately.

Best Before Date (BBD)

This is the most common format. Most packaged foods have a Best Before Date, which indicates the product’s quality up to that date. These products can be legally sold and safely consumed after their Best Before Date, although the quality will often begin to decline.

We have worked with over 2,000 food donors to develop the guidelines below. These are suggestions and not legal advice, but it is very similar to Foodbank Victoria’s own distribution guide.

Products with a Use By Date

Product Type
Suggestion for Charity Partner Issue Guide
Prepacked fresh meat, fish, and ready to eat meals Up to UBD, or in some cases may be hard frozen prior to UBD, and re-labelled accordingly
Other products with Use By expiry format Up to UBD

Products with a Best Before Date

Product Type
Suggestion for Charity Partner Issue Guide
Fresh / Chilled Products
Fresh bread BBD + up to 3 days
Eggs BBD + 2 weeks
Butter and butter blends BBD + 4 months
Margarine BBD + 4 months
Thickened cream BBD + 2 weeks
Sour cream, crème fraiche etc BBD + 4 weeks
Yoghurts and dips BBD + 2 weeks
Dairy desserts BBD + 2 weeks
Shredded cheese BBD + 4 weeks
Soft cheese (e.g. brie, camembert, blue) BBD + 4 weeks
Fresh cheese (e.g. feta, ricotta, cottage cheese) BBD + 4 weeks
Hard cheese (e.g. cheddar, edam) BBD + 2 months
Frozen Products
Frozen protein – uncooked BBD + 3 months
Frozen protein – cooked BBD + 6 months
All other frozen products BBD + 6 months
Shelf Stable / Ambient Products
Baby food Up to BBD
Dairy UHT Milk BBD + 8 weeks
Non-dairy UHT milk (e.g. soy, almond) BBD + 6 weeks
Pasta and rice BBD + 1 year
Dry cooking/baking ingredients (flour, sugar, salt,
herbs, powdered soup/meal base etc)
BBD + 1 year
Cooking oils and preserved foods BBD + 1 year
Coffee and tea BBD + 1 year
Water (non-carbonated) BBD + 1 year
All other shelf stable products BBD + 6 months
Non-food Products
Personal and household cleaning products Expiry + 1 year
Pet care products (tinned /wet) BBD + 1 year
Pet care products (dry) BBD + 6 months
Pet care products (chilled) Up to expiry

For further information, please visit the Food Standards Australia & NZ website (www.foodstandards.gov.au) or get in touch with us directly.