Expiry Dates, Best Before, and Trusting Your Senses: What You Need to Know

Whether its fresh food or food you’ve had in the pantry for a while, many of us look for a date on packaged goods for guidance on whether our food is still good to eat. “Good” however, can mean a range of things- from not tasting the freshest, to not safe to eat. Knowing the difference is very important to our health, but also for our wallets and for food waste.  

Expiry dates and Best Before dates were created with the intention of helping consumers distinguish freshness dates from food safety dates, but somewhere along the way we all got confused about what these two different dates are supposed to represent! 

Here’s a quick refresher: 


Expiry Dates 

According to the Canadian Institute of Food Safety, an expiry date is assigned to packaged goods that have ingredients that could be unsafe to eat after a certain date. If you have packaged goods with an expiry date that has passed, the food should not be consumed. Your best option is to dispose of the contents in the compost, and recycle the packaging. 


Best Before Dates 

A date labelled “best before” is indicating when the durable life period of a prepacked food ends. Durable life means the expected amount of time that an unopened good, when stored under appropriate conditions, will retain its freshness, taste, nutritional value, or any other qualities claimed by the manufacturer. 

If these unopened goods are properly stored, they may still be good to eat after their best before date. 


Knowing the difference

Often, dates are labelled as either “Expiry” or “Best Before (BB)”. If not, it is important to recognize that Expiry dates are only required on certain food products. These include: formulated liquid diets, food sold by a pharmacist, meal replacements, and infant formula.


Trust your senses 

If you have a food product with a best before date that has already passed, we recommend trusting your senses when deciding whether it is good to eat. 

Look, smell, and potentially taste to determine whether the food is safe. When in doubt, throw it out. 

If we can remember the difference between Expiry dates and Best Before dates, then we can all save money on food while reducing waste! Speaking of reducing waste… have you ever looked at Spud’s organic imperfect produce?

SPUD has been delivering local and organic groceries in Vancouver and the lower mainland for the past 20 years, and now services Vancouver Island, Calgary, and Edmonton as well!

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