Food products will need an appropriate barcode if you want your goods to be sold on the High Street or any typical retailer. You may be able to sell your products on market stalls or at special events without one, but in general they are an essential part of retailing your goods.

The same is the case with a Best Before / Sell By / Use By date. Although certain foodstuffs are exempt, Food Labelling Regulations (1996) require that food intended for the retail market be labelled with an “appropriate durability indication”.  Some natural foods (such as fruit or vegetables) do not require one, but it is good practice for anything in any way manufactured to have one.

For pre-packed perishable goods such as those processed by a reputable co-packer, it is likely to be a legal requirement to include some form of expiry date, and in any case, it helps to build trust with the consumer and is an indicator of good practice.

It is also important at this point to the difference between these different terms. In short, these differences can be summarised as follows: Sell By and Best Before dates are about quality. Foods will be safe to eat after this date but it may not be at its best. It is possible that the taste or texture may be past its best, but the food will still be safe to eat.

Use By dates, on the other hand, are about safety. Foods should be eaten up to the Use By date, but not after. This is usually because there is the prospect of bacteriological contamination and therefore a risk of food poisoning. Examples here could be soft cheeses or meat. The “sniff test” is also not reliable here, because many bacteria do not give off an odour, and also give no visual indication of their presence, such as mould.

Whichever type of labelling is required, our state of the art label printer can produce a valid Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) bar code, which is a unique identifier so that your retailer can recognise your product wherever it is sold, anywhere in the world. Our printer can also apply the correct Best Before / Sell By / Use By labelling as appropriate for your product. Other necessary information, such as product ingredients can also be printed as required.