“It takes so many resources to grow, transport, store, cook and get food to our plates. When we throw food out, we throw those resources out with it”
Welcome to Week Four of the Just Eat It, Caledon! Food Waste Challenge where we uncover the mystery behind best-before and expiry dates on food.
How many of us have stood in a grocery aisle, searching a container for its best-before date, without really understanding what that date means? Does a food product magically change on its best-before date? Is it safe to eat? Will its nutrition content be affected?
According to Second Harvest, there is certainly a lot of confusion about best-before and expiry dates, which is a significant cause of food waste in Canada. Below, the food rescue organization Second Harvest busts three common MYTHS about best-before dates.
MYTH #1: “Best-before dates and expiry dates are the same thing”
BUSTED: This is the biggest – and most persistent – myth!
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. These five foods are: baby formula; meal replacement or supplement bars; meal supplement drinks, like Boost or Ensure; and formulated liquid diets and foods for use in a very low-energy diet – both of which 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 date on the carton”
BUSTED: Eggs and milk are safe to consume up to 2 weeks after their best-before date.
You can even freeze milk and get up to 3 extra months of use past its best-before date. According to Health Canada’s food safety page 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!”
BUSTED: 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 so much.
You can trust your senses: don’t eat foods that smell bad; if you see rotting or mold on produce, put it in the compost; if a can is bulging or leaking, discard it.
Source: Second Harvest – www.secondharvest.ca
Week Four – Challenge Activity:
This week we are challenging you to learn more about best-before dates to ensure good food isn’t being tossed into the green bin. A Guide to Food Date Labels in Canada, a free eCourse offered by Second Harvest (linked in the Resource List) will help you understand when food is safe, or not safe to eat; and, know the difference between the various date labels. In addition, your “Food Safety & Storage” Handout highlights how far beyond best-before dates different food items can be consumed – fresh or frozen. Keep it handy for when you need help deciding whether or not to toss, consume or freeze certain items.
Lastly, have a look on the flip side of your “Food Safety & Storage” Handout. Knowing where to store food in the fridge or freezer matters, and can help prolong freshness and shelf life.