What is the Expiry/Best Before Date?

Best before dates and Expiry dates cause a lot of confusion for Canadians. Many people assume they mean the same thing and incorrectly say food has “expired” if it reaches its best before date, so they throw it out. That is not true.

 ‘Expiration Dates’ refer to FOOD SAFETY while ‘Best Before’ refers to QUALITY.

You’ll only find ‘Expiration Dates’ on products like meal replacements, infant formula, and nutritional supplements, and you should not eat them past their expiry date.

 ‘Best Before’ dates are only required on packaged foods that have a shelf life of 90 days or less, such as milk, yogurt, and bread. They do not guarantee product safety; but rather when your food will be at its peak freshness, taste and nutritional value. Ie. When it’s BEST before.

What does this mean? Well, basically it means that after the best before date has passed, food may lose some freshness and flavour, and the texture may change. That chip might not be as crisp, but it does not mean that it is unsafe to eat.

Also remember that best before dates only apply to unopened food. The minute you open that jug of milk or pack of cheese the best before date is irrelevant.

Unfortunately, Canada doesn’t have any standards around determining best before dates, and many products have them that don’t even need them. This confusion means that a lot of perfectly good food ends up in the garbage. And I mean A LOT! Canada is one of the biggest contributors to food waste. It may not seem like a big deal but research estimates the average Canadian household wastes 140 kilograms of food per year – at a cost of more than $1,100 per year!

This is why you will not find ‘Best Before’ dates on our products. Over the years we’ve tried both ‘Best Before’ dates and ‘Packaged on’ dates, and inevitably customers still mistake them for ‘Expiration Dates’ and end up throwing out perfectly good food. Instead, on the bottom of our jars you will find a sticker with it’s Batch Number. This is a unique code we use to track when a product was made and which batch it came from. The code does not resemble a date so as not to be mistaken for an expiry date.

So, what does this mean for you? Well, if you have forgotten about a jar in the back of your cupboard and are unsure, open it. If it smells funky or looks off, throw it out. Use your best judgment, but if you’re still unsure feel free to contact us with your batch number and we will be happy to look it up for you.

To learn more about best before dates download the Food Consumption Table and visit Love Food Hate Waste.