Best before vs. best by: you probably got it wrong

How to Read Expiration Dates | Reading Food Labels 2019

Understanding the dates on food items will not only save you money; it’s also better for our planet.

Reports vary, but Canadians waste on average 35.5 million tons of food every year. Out of this, 11.2 million tons could have avoided this fate.

One of the reasons so much food is wasted is not understanding the best before vs. best by dates.

“Best before” is about quality

In other words, freshness, texture, flavor and nutritional value. Because an item is past its best before date doesn’t mean it’s no longer edible. Quite the contrary.

“Best by” about safety

In other words, ensuring that you don’t become sick or die.

Let’s dig further, shall we?

Canned goods and dried goods

On average, these can last up to 18 months after their best before date. White rice can last up to 24 months. As long as the can isn’t rusty, swollen or leaky, it’s safe.

Flour, cookies and cereals can become stale though. Doesn’t mean it’s unsafe; just not the most pleasant taste.

Oil, vinegar and spices

These can last up to 24 months.

Dairy and eggs

Most dairy products can be consumed up to a week after their best before date. Some cheeses, like cheddar can last up to a month.

Eggs can be kept in the fridge for up to 6 weeks. Put your eggs in a bowl of water. If they float, throw them away.

Meat, fish and shellfish

This is the danger zone. Better safe than sorry here!

Fresh fish and shellfish only last 2 to 4 days. Most meats last for 5 days, at most.

If you’re not sure you’ll eat these on time, freeze them. Frozen meat will last up to 9 months; 3 months for fish and shellfish.

Storage is also important

Whether or not a product keeps fresh and edible right up to the use-by or best-before date depends on how it is stored. Many foods need to be kept at certain temperatures, either in the fridge or freezer, but also in the pantry.

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