Every type of food in the fridge or pantry is labelled with best-before dates. However, not all foods turn bad once that date has passed. Best-before dates tend to be read as expiration dates, and this sometimes leads to food waste.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says that best-before dates are not indicators of food safety but are guidelines for the food’s nutritional value.
Inspections Canada has only mandated five products with expiration dates, such as baby formula, nutritional supplements, low-energy diet foods sold by pharmacists and formulated liquid diets.
According to new data released by Dalhousie University’s Agri-Food Analytics Lab, in 2022, about 73 per cent of Canadians will always look at best-before dates for dairy products, and 32 per cent will look at best-before dates for non-perishables/packaged foods.
“Depending on what the food is, like if it’s bread, then I’ll eat it,” says Victoria Watt, a first-year Humber student in the addictions and mental health program. “If it’s dairy, I get a little unsure, so I throw it out.”
According to the data, 65 per cent of Canadians have thrown out unopened food due to it being passed its best-before date.
Skedline did a poll on best-before dates and found that 35 per cent were all for eliminating best-before dates, while 65 per cent wanted to keep best-before dates.
“I think fresh foods like eggs, meat, and dairy products should have expiration dates,” says Natalie Serviss, an upcoming culinary student at Top Toques Institute of Culinary Excellence. “Bread and more expendable products shouldn’t.”
Dairy and meat products seem to be the primary concern regarding best-before dates. However, according to Love Food Hate Waste, people can eat eggs three weeks past the best-before date.
Depending on the food, some items can last up to one to nine months in a freezer if appropriately stored. For example, foods such as turkey, chicken, and butter all have a long freezer life.
Some Canadians opt for best-before dates when it comes to browsing the shelves at grocery stores.
“When I go to a grocery store and find a discount, that’s when I look at best-before dates,” says Omer Turkay, a second-year Humber student in the Behavioural Science program.
According to the Agri-Food Analytics Lab’s data, a total of 44 per cent of Canadians have bought discounted food products with best-before dates. At the same time, 78 per cent have consumed food after its best-before date.
Once a food product has been opened, the best-before date can no longer be relied on. Consumers may want to use their own judgment and determine if what they are about to consume is safe.