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Best Before vs. Expiration Date

When it comes to pantry goods, they all have either a “best before” date or an expiration date on their packaging – which are often confused for one another. Although many don’t realize they are separate things, knowing the difference can be very important and will help you make safe decisions on the consumption of your food.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency states that best before dates tell you when the durable life period of a prepackaged food is going to end. On the other hand, they state that an expiration date is present to indicate that the food has strict compositional and nutritional specifications that may not be met after the date has passed.

When it comes to foods labelled with “best-before” it is an indication that if handled properly and unopened it should last until the date labelled. Note, however, it is not a guarantee of product safety according to the Agency. As for foods labelled with an expiration date, once the data has passed should not be bought, sold or eaten.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has provided a list of foods that an expiration date must be present on. The list includes formulated liquid diets, food for use in very low-energy diets, meal replacements, nutritional supplements and human milk substitutes.

They also provide details on what should appear on best before labelled foods. Food that remains fresh for 90 days or less and are packaged at a place other than the retail store must also come with proper storage instructions. Those packaged at the retail store must also come with a “packaged on” date.

Important Food safety practices

For every business in the food industry, it is important that all the food items are stored in a safe environment and checked for best before and expiry dates. The food item must be handled and stored properly by the professionals while ensuring its use within the proper time frame. According to specialists in the food industry, food items must be stored using the First In, First Out (FIFO) method. The practices under this method include:

  • The food items going into the storage must be used in the FIFO manner
  • Make sure to move food items nearing their expiration date to the front
  • If not stored in their original packaging, labelling and dating should be done properly
  • Frequently keep checking best before and expiry dates
  • Discarding any food items that show signs of spoilage

It is important that the professionals responsible for food handling and team or kitchen managers must be trained on these key food safety practices as well as have food safety training. Food safety training is one of the best ways to ensure that these best practices are followed without any failure.

Once food does become unsafe to eat, one must be able to identify it and take the proper course of action. Be prepared for various situations by learning it through our Food handlers Certificate Course.