Understanding food labels

Food labels play an important role in everyday shopping decisions. As well as providing ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ information, food labels inform customers about the nutritional value of food. Read below for examples of some of the most common labels found in-store and information on how to read them.

Understanding food labels

Date information

Use by

Food can be safely eaten up to the end of the ‘use by’ date if it has been stored in accordance with any storage instructions printed on the packet. Don’t consume food after this date even if it looks and smells fine as it could put your health at risk.

Best before

These dates refer to quality rather than food safety. When the date has passed, the food won’t be unsafe but might begin to lose its flavour or texture. Bread for example might have gone stale but it’s still safe to eat.

Providing eggs are cooked thoroughly, they can be eaten a day or two after their ‘best before’ date.

Display until / Sell by

These markings are for Tesco staff and indicate how long a product can be presented to customers on a shelf or in the fridge or freezer before they have to be removed from display.

Nutritional information

The other types of labels that you will find on food products in-store are to do with nutrition.

Guideline daily amounts (GDA)

Many products display the guideline daily amounts (GDA) of calories, sugars, fat, saturates and sodium that are contained in the food.  GDA may refer to ‘per 100g’ or ‘per serving/portion' so be sure to read the label carefully each time.


Traffic light labels

Be on the lookout for the ‘traffic light’ colours that often appear in conjunction with GDA information.  

Traffic light labels 

If you see the colour green then the product is low in that nutrient, and is a healthy choice. The colour amber symbolises a medium level and red a high level. This information can be especially important to people who are diabetic or are on a low sodium diet.


For more information on nutrition labelling visit http://www.tesco.ie/corporate-responsibility/health-and-community-impact/.