Shelf Life and Food Labelling

Learn about a product's shelf life and when food needs a label.


  • Shelf life is the length of time a food product can be stored and still be safe to eat. 
  • It is shown as a “Best before” or “Use by” date on the food label.
  • The shelf life is determined by the processor, packer or retailer.
  • The Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code sets out the shelf life and labelling requirements for all food products.

Shelf life

The shelf life of a food product depends on:

  • how it was processed
  • its composition and moisture content
  • how it is managed throughout the supply chain.

The shelf life is determined by product history, testing or industry guidelines. 

Learn more about the shelf life of meat products and the use of “best before” and “use by” date marking in the Shelf Life and Labelling PrimeSafe Technical Guideline.

Food labelling

A food product that is ready to be sold to consumers must have a food label unless it is:

  • made and packaged on the premises where it is sold
  • packaged in front of the person buying it
  • delivered at the express order of the person buying it (other than when the food is sold from a vending machine)
  • sold at a fund-raising event
  • displayed in an assisted service display cabinet.

Labelling requirements must be included in a business’s food safety program.

You can find out what needs to be on the labels for most foods in the Australia New Zealand Food Standard Code.

 Meat and pet meat labelling requirements are set out in the:

For more information about Country of Origin Labelling contact Australian Competition & Consumer Commission.