Best Before and Expiry Dates
Have you ever wondered if you can eat that unopened yogurt in your fridge that is past the “Best Before” date? Well you can. As long as it has been properly stored/refrigerated, milk, yogurt and cottage cheese can all be safely consumed up to 7-10 days after the best before date. In fact, the Best Before date says nothing about the safety of a food. This date is simply an indicator of quality, set by the manufacturer based on their scientific evaluation of the food quality over time. It is how long the food will maintain its’ optimal taste and texture as per the manufacturer’s tests. Only foods that will last for 90 days or less require a best before date although you may find them on longer lasting foods too. For example, canned soups and dried pasta often have a best before date, however, you can still eat dried pasta well past the best before date, it may just break apart more when cooked.
The only foods in Canada requiring expiration dates are infant formulas, meal replacements, nutritional supplements, pharmacist sold foods and formulated liquid diets. The reason for the expiration date (meaning they should not be consumed after this date) is due to the deterioration of the vitamins and minerals rendering them useless. For people who rely on these products for their sole nutrition, it is imperative that the nutrient content be intact.
Unfortunately there is a significant amount of food waste by the consumer tossing out foods that are past their best before dates. Food banks often get food close to the best before date. As long as the food has been properly stored it is still safe to eat a few days after this date, and for canned and dried goods, it can be safe for months after. However, once opened, the best before date is irrelevant. You can find a list of the shelf life for opened foods and condiments at www.canfightbac.org and www.stilltasty.com.
Once opened, this is how long food will last in your fridge:
Milk: 3-5 days
Yogurt: 3-5 days
Cottage cheese: 3-5 days
Firm cheese: 5 weeks
Mayo: 2 months
Deli meat: 3-4 days
Best Before and Use By dates are also put on fresh pre-packaged foods such as those in a deli. The date indicates the day that the manufacturer will guarantee the freshness and nutritional quality of the food. Once opened, this date is no longer in effect. Avoid purchasing foods that are close to the use by or best before date, choose one that is fresher. Eating a food a few days past the use by date, if it was properly stored, likely won’t make you sick. Use your best judgement. If it looks or smells bad, toss it out.
“When is doubt, throw it out.”