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Best Before Dates and Expiry Dates: What You Need to Know

21/05/2019

Have you ever wondered if it’s okay to eat yogurt after the best before date, or if you should throw out that can of tomatoes with last month’s best before date?  Knowing about best before and expiry dates will avoid wasting food and may save you money. 

Most packaged foods we find in the store today are labelled with either a best before date or an expiry date.  People often confuse the two, however, they are NOT the same.  Here is what you need to know about best before dates and expiry dates:

 

Fact # 1:  The best before date tells you about the quality of the food (the freshness, flavour and nutritional value) of an UNOPENED food product.  It is NOT about food safety (not related to food-borne illnesses).  It indicates the peak quality of a food item that is unopened, has been properly stored and is not dented, swollen, or damaged in any way.

Fact # 2:  The best before date MUST be on foods that have a shelf life of 90 days or less (for example, dairy products, eggs, meat, etc.).  While canned foods, pasta, rice, beans and crackers are examples of food that do not require a best before date, manufacturers choose to add a date.  This date is based on their best estimate of when the product may no longer be at its optimum quality.

Fact # 3:  Food can be eaten past the best before date.  As long as the package/can is UNOPENED, has been stored in the proper conditions and is not dented, bulging, or damaged in any way, the food can be eaten.  But the freshness, texture, taste and nutritional value may not be at its best.  Recall, the best before date is not an indicator of food safety, either before or after the best before date. 

 

Fact # 4:  There are only FIVE types of food products that can and must be labelled with an expiry date:  baby formula, nutritional supplements, meal replacements, pharmacist-sold food for very low-energy diets and formulated liquid diets.  These food products have nutritional ingredients that need to be stable. Do NOT eat food after the expiry date.  These foods have strict compositional and nutritional ingredients that need to be stable. These specifications might not be met after the expiry date.

This article was put together by Jane Hammingh, Registered Dietician with Ottawa Public Health.

 

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