by Jim Chan
Many consumers check the "best before" or "expiry date" labels on food packages before buying them. A best before date is the manufacturer's message to the consumer that the food will be fresh and of the highest quality and nutrient value as listed on the label. After that date, the food may still be safe but the promise of freshness is no longer stand. The best advise for consumers is to read the best before date and if the date has already passed, don't buy it and look for another fresher product.
What is the different between a best before date (or use by date) and an expiry date?
Information from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) website (CFIA - Food Label: Date Codes) advisory on Date Labelling on Pre-packaged Foods :
"Best before" Date
"Use by" Date
In general, a best before date tells consumer about the freshness and shelf life of unopened food in the original package, once the package is opened, there is no guarantee the food will have the same nutritional value, taste or texture. Some food can be frozen to keep beyond its best-before date, but consumers should contact manufacturers for information about freezing and storing period of the products.
However, an expiry date tells consumer that the food maintains its microbiological and physical stability, as well as the nutrient content listed on the label. It is important to use the food before the expiry date to avoid potential food safety risk and to get the most nutritional value from it. Also, food may still smell or taste fine after the expiry date has passed but it can be risky, so consumer should use their judgment weather they want to use the food. Best recommendation is ''when in doubt, throw it out".
Investigation: How supermarkets change best before date to turn 'old' food into fresh food (Video by CBC Marketplace) CBC Marketplace Investigation
Food safety tips on storing food in refrigerator
- Refrigeration compartment - Keep temperature at 4°C /40° F, or colder. Bacteria can multiply rapidly at temperatures above 4°C/ 40°F, or in the Danger Zone, so keep food cold and safe by chilling food properly is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of food-borne illness. Always keep a fridge thermometer inside the refrigerator at all times to keep tabs on the temperature.
- Freezer compartment - Keep temperature at -18°C (0°F) to keep food items frozen solid. Fresh meat, poultry or fish should be freeze immediately if not use within a few days. If consumer wants to freeze food to keep beyond its best-before date, remember to write the
date when the food is put into the freezer on packages in order to keep track of storage period. (Note: In the summer months when it is hot and humid in the kitchen, the refrigerator and freezer temperature can get warmer. Use the thermometer in the fridge and freezer to check that they stay cold enough.)
More information on how to keep cold food safe:
See what Dr. Justin Beaver has to say about
home food safety
Related link: CBC Marketplace TV - Investigation of Best Before Date scam