Understanding Best Before Dates on Fresh Foods

Jaimee Larson | February 13, 2020
Did you know that there is a significant difference between best before and expiry dates on food? The best before date is simply that, a recommendation, made by the producer, that food is consumed “before” that date. Its purpose is to highlight the food’s quality and to inform that it might be BEST BEFORE that date. After that date, texture, aroma, and flavour could change, but it is probably safe to eat for a period of time if the packaging was un-opened and there is no damage to the product.

Expiry dates are different. These are hard dates that apply to items where the nutritional value is lost past this date. Key items that have expiry dates are infant foods and nutritional supplements.

To understand, in depth, how long you can consume cheese, milk, eggs etc. past the best before dates, check out Love Food Hate Waste Canada. This is a great storage guide to ensure food maintains its freshness as long as possible. Another great resource can be found on Food Banks Canada website HERE.

To extend the life of fresh produce items, consider freezing what won’t be consumed before spoiling. Things like onions, bell peppers, berries and stone fruits (like cherries, peaches and plums) can all be easily frozen. Wash and dry items well (excess water will cause sogginess), then remove pits and seeds and lay them on a flat tray in the freezer until frozen. Finally, transfer to a freezer bag and keep frozen until you are ready to consume. Bananas can also be frozen and used in muffins or sliced and frozen to be used in smoothies.

Taking leftover vegetables, or ones that are perhaps not the family’s favorite, and transforming them into a nourishing soup is a great way to use up what you have. Here is a great link to make soup from any crisper leftovers thekitchn.com

Understanding how to extend the life of fresh food will reduce the amount that is wasted. Foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals, and offer quality protein, keep us satisfied and in better health. Understanding that the best before date is merely a guideline can help us to eat more of what is in our fridge and keep our grocery budgets in check.