Let me ask you this. Have you ever bought food from the store and it was stale when you opened it? Or it was alright, but the next day it was already going bad? That’s probably because you didn’t look at the “best before” date.
There’s no doubt that the various dates on food are confusing. There are dates like “best before”, “use by”, “sell by”, “prepared on”, “freeze by”, and “manufactured on.” Whew, that was a mouth full, wasn’t it?
Then of course there are some foods that only have a date with no words on them, like eggs or yogurt. And, some foods have no dates, like containers of fresh fruit.
Apparently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is sick and tired of all the labels. The FDA says Americans throw out $161 billion worth of food each year, and the confusing labels contribute to this. Not cool, man.
So, the FDA recently issued guidance urging the food industry to use only one standard label: “best if used by,” which will simply relate to the best quality of the food, not its safety.
They said, “studies have shown that this tells consumers that these products do not have to be discarded after the date if they are stored properly.”
They add that predicting when a food is not good enough to eat is not an exact science. Hmmm I never was too good at science. LOL.
In the United States, products are not actually required to be labeled with a date unless it’s baby formula. So, why do manufacturers do it? Dr Sanjay Gupta says it’s mostly to get Americans to throw the food away and buy more food.
In Canada, Food and Drugs regulations require prepackaged foods with a lifespan of 90 days or less to be labelled with a durable life date, known as a “best before” date.
“Best before” dates
The Canadian Food Inspection agency says that “Best-before” dates are not talking about food safety. It’s saying after the date shown, the food may lose some freshness and flavour, or its texture might be different. Whoa. Really? Yup.
The food’s nutritional value may also not be the same after the date, but, it’s probably still okay to buy and eat foods after the “best-before” date has passed.
This next part is very important, so I hope you’re still reading. The “best-before” date only applies to unopened products. Once you open the food, the date will probably change.
If you’ve left a carton of milk in the fridge for a week like I did once, you’ll know what I mean. I saw the “best before” date was a few days away, so I thought it was still good. Then I smelled it. Gross. Mwahahahahaha.
To be safe, make sure that you properly store foods that are likely to spoil and eat them as quickly as possible. Harmful micro-organisms can grow in food and get you sick, even if the food doesn’t look like it’s spoiled.
And, always check food that’s past its “best before” date to see if it’s good enough to eat. The food agencies say not to eat things that have changed colour, consistency or texture. Especially, if it has turned black. Ewwwwww.
Another thing to remember is that it’s not illegal to sell a product if its “best-before” date has passed, but it is illegal to sell food that is unsafe or to change the “best before” date. If you see this, tell the retailer who is selling the food.
I don’t usually buy foods that are on or past the best before date, but some people always do because it’s cheaper.
Once in a blue moon, if there’s nothing else, I will buy some. But I always try to eat it quickly and throw it in the compost if it looks or smells yucky.
So, if you want to buy fresh food and avoid getting sick from bad products, read food expiry dates.