Photo: Don't confuse

Did you know that milk can be consumed 7 days after the "best before" date, opened or unopened? (Credit: Fix.com)

Are you sitting down?

Yogurt with a best before date of today is still good (and safe) to eat for seven to 10 days (open or unopened)!

Reading best before dates as expiry dates probably contributes to food waste and "every year a staggering one-third — 1.3 billion tonnes — of the world's food is wasted after it has been harvested: 45 per cent of fruit and vegetables, 35 per cent of fish and seafood, 30 per cent of cereals, 20 per cent of dairy products and 20 per cent of meat."

Let's change that.

Best before dates have to do with food quality — freshness, texture, flavor and nutritional value — not safety. They are not expiry dates.

I suspect not confusing "best before" with "expired" will lead to these three things:

  1. You'll waste less food.
  2. You'll save money.
  3. You'll avoid sending food waste to the landfill, which contributes to increasing methane emissions and significantly adds to our climate change woes.

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How long after a best before date can I safely eat eggs, milk, mustard, cereal, etc.?

  • LoveFoodHateWaste.ca shares storage time limits, e.g., you can consume eggs one month after the best before date.
  • EatbyDate.com explains how long food lasts.
  • Fix.com shares a pantry guide for dry goods.

What happens to food after its best before date?

After the best before date has passed, food may lose some freshness and flavour and texture may change. Some foods lose nutritional value, e.g., contain less vitamin C.

You can buy and eat foods after their best before dates have passed. (I use them to my advantage and enjoy best before sales at the grocery store!)

Where will you see best before dates?

Best before dates are only required on foods that stay fresh for 90 days or less. Some things have them that don't need them, like bottled water.

Only a few foods — like infant formula and formulated liquid diets — actually have expiry dates.

Note: Always avoid leaky or bulging canned goods.

What surprised you about best before dates?

Sincerely,
Lindsay Coulter, a fellow Queen of Green

November 12, 2015
http://www.davidsuzuki.org/blogs/queen-of-green/2015/11/dont-confuse-best-before-with-expired/

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12 Comments

Feb 22, 2016
10:53 AM

…thing is, our local grocery store does NOT keep the foods cold that are supposed to be kept cold… eg milk etc. So, when I buy it, it is already at risk and I will NOT eat or drink dairy products past whatever date is on there. I bought milk mid February with a mid March 2016 best before date on. I opened it March 2nd and it stunk. Obviously became bad before I purchased it, sitting in the stock room, waiting to be put in the refrigerated display case at the store? My neighbour saw ice cream on a skid sitting in aisle, waiting for staff to get the freezer compartment ready in the same store.

Feb 22, 2016
6:04 AM

I was one of those who wasn’t sure of the difference. Recently I learned and kept food or discarded it, accordingly. Great information!

Feb 20, 2016
6:48 PM

I have bought vitamins and that are now “expired” … how old is old??? expiry date on bottle was January 2015… should I throw this away?

Dec 07, 2015
5:30 PM

Great info. But if we purchase with menus in mind and eat what we buy — avoiding the bulk buy just to ‘save money’ up front, we wouldn’t have to be worried about expired, rotten or best before dates. And i find organic dairy products do break down more quickly

Dec 07, 2015
5:07 PM

Fix.com is an awesome resource Thanks!

You could omit: EatbyDate.com as it doesn’t even address it’s own topics. Just text that goes in circles, saying nothing. Mostly there for the advertisers.

Dec 07, 2015
4:10 PM

I agree, with Grant. Liquids in plastic can taste bitter, oily, (and terrible) if stored in a bright or warm place (like a window display). Can leave your tongue burning like some kind of solvent. Unforgettable.

Dec 07, 2015
3:17 PM

Rotate canned goods on your shelves by date. Newer dates go to the back, like stores do (if staff is trained). The benefit of cans is you don’t get light damage. Be careful not to drop or dent tins which can break the seal. Heat, light and air is what damages ingredients. Some companies canned tomatoes may get dark spots near the crimp or solder of the can, so make sure you use them in date order for better flavour. Food in glass lasts for ages in fridges operating at a good cold temp. To check, just look at it. Did it change colour? Is there any mild on top? Sniff, are the oils rancid from heat, and smelling like old oil? No? I bet you can cook it.

Dec 07, 2015
3:03 PM

Many people who’ve taken Food-Safe classes, or even some school cooking class have been told “When in Doubt — Throw it Out!”. How stupid is that!

With so many people walking around fixated on a mobile encyclopaedia and not bothering to find out? Do they have an emoticon for ‘Dope-Slap’ yet? Heck, you could probably just phone your local deli manager and ask! Throwing out food because you are unsure should be considered criminally stupid, (and has probably been grounds for couples-counselling).

We don’t eat raw eggs anymore because of the high incidence of salmonella with factory-raised poultry, but when you cook it properly, there’s no problem. When in doubt cook it.

Nov 16, 2015
5:41 AM

Bottled water has an expiry date because the plastic bottle starts to break down over time. You don’t want to be drinking hydrocarbons!

Nov 15, 2015
9:51 PM

What about Cannes goods ?there are many expired cans of food on my shelf that I considered donating but didn’t want to waste my gas if its will be wasted! Some expired in 2014!?!?

Nov 15, 2015
12:23 PM

I do this all the time! Everything is still good, and I save so much money and much less waste for the environment :) plz we should all waste much less, we’re much too fussy as humans

Nov 12, 2015
12:06 PM

What are your thoughts on “expiry” date on drugs or over the counter medications? The Wall Street Journal has looked into this with surprising results — http://www.wsj.com/articles/are-expired-medications-ok-to-take-1409005882. Harvard has also written on whether expiry dates are actually meaningless — http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/drug-expiration-dates-do-they-mean-anything

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