3 MYTHS About Best-Before Dates Debunked

by | Sep 30, 2020 | Food Waste

We have a food waste problem. It’s a big one. 

In fact, nearly 60% of the food produced in Canada is lost and wasted every single year. That’s 35.3 million metric tonnes. To put that into perspective, one million metric tonnes weighs about the same as a couple of skyscrapers. 

Of that wasted food, 32% (about two dozen skyscrapers in weight) is totally avoidable and deliciously edible food. 

Part of the solution could be understanding best-before dates better—and knowing how to prevent food waste at home. Let’s look at the most common myths and debunk them. 

The top 3 best-before date myths—debunked

Myth #1: “Best-before dates and expiry dates are the same thing.”

This is the biggest—and most persistent—myth out there. In Canada, there is a legal distinction between “best-before” and “expiry.” 

Only five types of food in Canada have true expiry dates, that is, you should not eat them once the date has passed:

  1. Baby formula
  2. Meal replacements or supplement bars
  3. Meal supplement drinks like Boost or Ensure
  4. Formulated liquid diets 
  5. Foods for use in a very low-energy diet (the last two both require a prescription)

Best-before dates are about quality, not safety. 

The “best-before” date does not guarantee product safety, but it does give you information about the freshness and potential shelf-life of the unopened food you are buying.

Myth #2: “I can’t eat eggs or drink milk after the carton date.”

Best-before dates: Food date labels and waste

Eggs and milk are safe to consume up to two weeks after their best-before date.

You can even freeze milk and get up to three extra months of use past its best-before date. 

According to Health Canada’s Food Safety website, you can eat and even buy after the “best before” date has passed, though it may have lost some of its freshness, flavour and nutritional value, and its texture may have changed.

Myth #3: “When in doubt, throw it out!”

Best-before date labels

This is tricky since this guidance has some usefulness. But should the garbage be your default for yogurt with yesterday’s best-before date? Not necessarily. (Also, if you are going to throw food out, add it to your compost bucket). 

Trust your senses: don’t eat foods that smell bad, have rot or mould on it. Put it in the compost. If a can is bulging, cracked, open, or leaking, discard it.

Want to end the doubt and learn some more surprising facts about best-before dates? Learn more about best-before dates with our smart Food Consumption Guidelines.

Updated September 2020
Originally appeared: January 14, 2020

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