Have you ever purchased packaged food and been confused why some items have a “Best Before” date and others have an “Expiration” date? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Consumers are often unsure how to interpret these dates on food packages and generally assume both dates mean product expiration. But the two labels actually mean different things.
The "Best Before" date refers to the quality of an unopened and properly stored food product, not safety. This date tells you how long a product will retain its optimal freshness, taste and potential shelf-life. According to Health Canada, a "Best Before" date along with proper storage instructions must be included on the package of foods that will keep fresh for 90 days or less. Foods with a shelf life greater than 90 days do not need "Best Before" dates. However, you will see a "Best Before" date on most foods even though they are not required to do so. It is important to keep in mind once you open a food package, the "Best Before" date no longer applies. An open package is exposed to environmental conditions, and can easily become cross-contaminated.
The expiration date tells you the last day the product will retain its optimal nutritional value. In Canada, there are five types of products that must have an expiration date on its packaging. These include:
Keep these tips in mind when reading “Best Before” and “Expiration” dates: