Canadians are some of the biggest food wasters in the world. We throw away 400 kilograms of perfectly good food a year. Research shows that you're probably contributing to our colossal food waste problem by what's in your garbage right at this very moment.
Most Canadians have no clue what the best before dates on food actually mean, and are throwing things out for no reason as a result. If you're one of these people, you're also spending way more money on food than you need to be.
So, here are all the things you probably didn't know, and definitely should, about the dates on your food.
First of all, there's a huge difference between best before dates and expiration dates. The best before date tell you how long the food keeps its flavour and nutritional value if it's stored properly. It has nothing to do with the food's safety. In other words, you won't get sick if the best before date has passed, it just won't taste as fresh.
According to food waste experts, perishable foods like yogurt and hummus last longer than the best before date makes people believe. Many products that have a best-before date don't even need them.
Here's how long these foods are safe to eat after their best before date, if they're stored properly:
- Milk, opened or unopened: 7 days
- Yogurt, opened or unopened: 1 to 2 weeks
- Butter, opened or unopened: 4 weeks
- Eggs, in shell: 3 weeks
- Salsa, opened: 1 to 2 weeks
- Hummus, opened: 4 to 6 days
- Crackers: 2 to 4 weeks
Expiration dates are different. There are only a few products that actually require an expiration date, and you probably don't even buy them - meal replacements, supplements, baby formula, pharmacist-sold foods and formulated liquid diets. No product should ever be consumed after the expiration date.
But, there are some foods where the best before date really does matter. Foods with a lot of pathogens, like packaged deli meats, fresh meats, ground beef and cheese, can become unsafe to eat after the best before date, even if they look and smell fine.
Chips that are past their best before date probably won't taste as good, but could quickly become unsafe to eat if too many people are sticking their hands in the bag, or double dipping in the salsa.
If you're unsure, it's always better not to take any chances. When in doubt, throw it out!