Understanding Food Labels: What’s the difference between Best Before and Expiry Dates?

Understanding Food Labels: What’s the difference between Best Before and Expiry Dates?

Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever! And we all know this applies to food and the safety of your consumers, your health and your family. Understanding date markings on pre-packaged products helps everyone better understand the label.

Depending on the type of product; Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) requires different kinds of date markings.

The most common date terms are “expiration”, “best before” and “packaged on”.

Expiration dates are required only on certain foods that have strict compositional and nutritional specifications which might not be met after the expiration date. Food should not be bought, sold or eaten if the expiration date has passed.

Best-before dates indicate the anticipated amount of time that an unopened food product, when stored under appropriate conditions, will retain its:

  • freshness,
  • taste,
  • nutritional value, or
  • any other qualities claimed by the manufacturer.

This information is usually found on the label with the words “best before” and “meilleur avant”.

Packaged on dates are similar to best-before date except they are to be used on retail-packed foods with a durable life date of 90 days or less, and must be paired with a durable life statement either on the label or on a poster next to the food.

Food producers, retailers and food manufacturers are responsible for accuracy of this information and should base the dates on how long an unopened product will retain its wholesomeness, taste, and nutritional value. It should also factor in other qualities including how it is processed and how it is packaged and stored.

More information on Date Labelling on Pre-packaged foods can be found on CFIA Fact Sheets here, or on Government of Canada General food safety tips here.

Still feeling puzzled? No need to fret. Our friendly and knowledgeable staff is happy to answer additional questions. Better yet, let our team take care of all of this for you! Reach out today and let us put together the food safety puzzle correctly, so you can focus on what you do best.

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