Skip to content

South African law (Regulation R146)


Date mark terminology guide

  • Date of Manufacture/Packed Date: The date on which the food product became the product as described or when it was placed in it’s current packaging.
  • Best Before: While still safe to eat and often perfectly fine after the Best Before Date, quality can deteriorate. It is not illegal to sell a product past its Best Before Date, but it may not be off ideal quality any more.
  • Sell By: Only used for the convenience of the retailer and consumer.  It shows the retailer when the supplier want the items removed from shelves and it gives the consumer time to use the product after it’s been bought. It is not illegal to sell a product after the Sell By Date.  Products between the Sell By Date and the Use By Date will usually be placed on sale, discounted, removed from shelves, discarded or donated. (Typically one-third of a product’s shelf-life remains after the sell-by date for the consumer to use at home.)
  • Use By: For fresh dairy products, meat, ready-to-eat meals, and other perishable items, usually kept chilled. It is illegal to sell products after the Use By Date as the product is not considered safe any more.

It is important to know that not one of these dates are not an exact science, neither does it mean that after these dates the product will necessarily make you sick if eaten. The conditions under which the products are packaged, as well as the storage conditions before and after the item is sold can greatly influence the accuracy of the dates. Thus the dates are mostly indicators of the date after which the product quality and/or safety will start to degrade.

For more information on South African Food Laws: Regulation 146