Eastern Ontatio Health Unit / Bureau de santé de l'Ontario

Food Safety and Expiry Dates

With food prices rapidly increasing, reducing household food waste is now more appealing than ever. However, this could lead some individuals to overlook food safety practices, such as proper food storage and handling, to save money. While keeping those leftovers a few days more to save a couple of dollars is enticing, food safety should remain top of mind to reduce the risk of food-borne illness, also known as food poisoning. Here are some tips and information to consider when balancing food safety and budgets.

Safe Food Storage

The shelf life of food can be stretched to a safe maximum by controlling storage conditions. For example, peanut butter can last for 2 to 3 months after being opened, if it is kept in a cool, dry, and dark place. In addition, it doesn’t need to be refrigerated. Mayonnaise, on the other hand, can last for about the same time as peanut butter once opened, but it must be stored in the refrigerator.

Check out the following links to find out more about the proper storage of various foods:

Food Safety for Vulnerable Groups

While most people recover completely from foodborne illness, some groups are at higher risk of more serious health effects, such as older adults, young children, pregnant women, or people with weakened immune systems. If you or someone you care for belongs to one of these groups, learn more on the extra measures you can take to reduce the risk of food poisoning.

Expiration Date versus Best Before Date

Dates on pre-packaged food are a valuable source of information for consumers. However, it is important to note that an expiration date is not the same as a best before date.

An expiration date is required only on certain foods that have strict compositional and nutritional specifications which might not be met after the given date, such as infant formula, meal replacements and nutritional supplements. Consumption of a product past the expiration date could be dangerous, as the food may not have the same nutrient content as declared on the label. Food should not be bought, sold, or eaten if the expiration date has passed. It should be discarded.

The best before date tells consumers that until the specified date, if the product has been properly handled and stored under conditions appropriate to that product, the unopened product should be of high quality in terms of freshness, taste, nutritional value, and other qualities claimed by the manufacturer. While best before dates do not guarantee product safety, they do give you information about the freshness and potential shelf life of the unopened foods you are buying.

Food may be consumed past its best before date within a reasonable period if the storage conditions are adequate. For example, pasteurized milk can last slightly past its best before date as long as it is kept adequately refrigerated, but it could also go bad before its best before date if refrigeration is inadequate.

Check out this link for more information about date labelling on pre-packaged foods.

Eastern Ontatio Health Unit / Bureau de santé de l'Ontario