BEST BEFORE DATES vs. EXPIRY DATES
When it comes to food, the terms ‘best before date’ and ‘expiry date’ have different meanings.
What does a best before date actually mean?
A food past its best before date does not mean the food cannot be eaten safely. A best before date is simply a promise from the manufacturer that the food will retain its freshness until that date. If consumed after the best before date, the manufacturer takes no responsibility for any loss in quality of the product. It does not mean the food is no longer suitable for eating and does not mean the item cannot be sold.
The only foods that must have a best before date are pre-packaged foods that keep fresh for 90 days or less (e.g. milk, eggs, bread, meats). Though not ideal, these foods can be sold past their best before date as long as it remains fit for consumption (ex. no mould, no decay). There is no requirement for other types of food (ex. canned) to have a best before date, and if provided, is simply a gesture of goodwill from the manufacture to the consumer.
How are expiry dates different?
Foods with expiry dates cannot be sold past this date. There are only a few foods that have actual expiry dates. These foods mainly consist of infant formula, liquid meal replacements, and nutritional supplements. After the expiry date, these food may not have the same nutrient content declared on the label so must not be sold or used.
So how long can I keep a food past its best before date?
There is no clear-cut answer to this question. It is up to individual consumers to determine this for themselves. Just know that food past its best before date is more likely to smell, look, or taste bad before it will make you sick.
If you’re not sure what to do, it never fails to stick with the age-old policy ‘When in doubt, throw it out ‘.