Best Before What?

16th January 2011, in USE IT (0 Comments)

I have seen people in the grocery aisles squinting over their glasses to make out the best before date on vinegar. I’m not sure I get it, vinegar being as off as a food can be.

I’ve also seen them messing up the shelf to find the best best before date on a package. And then leaving the mess.

We know grocers bring forward the older stock but it’s not a conspiracy, them working against you, charging full price for half gone goods.

Yet there is something very powerful about that date, stamped, as it is, in indelible ink.

Except nobody really knows why or what it means.

One thing for sure, it contributes to our shameful waste of food. We Canadians toss an estimated 40% of our edibles annually, this according to the recent Value Chain Management Centre study.

Here is my short version of  The Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s date labelling guidelines (amazingly, their site is comprehensible). Read it and extend the life of your pantry.

  • Best Before – Dates on shelf-stable foods (not perishables) are not indicators of food safety but rather quality. They are safe to eat after the ‘best before’ date. Here’s another piece of information that may surprise you: dating these products is optional.
  • Expiration Date – Used on infant formula and other formulated liquid diets. The nutritional quality of this food may be compromised and so useless. Do not eat after this date (except in times of famine?).
  • Production codes – For the vendor’s use for better stock control. The problem with these codes is that they are often mistaken for a “best before” date. How to distinguish? Well, the government says “best before” dates  have to appear a certain way (explained on their site).
Best Before What?

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