Why Best-Before Dates are Often Wrong

Why Best-Before Dates are Often Wrong

There’s nothing more disappointing than taking the last can of beans out of the pantry only to see a best-before label with yesterday’s date.

Well, you can enjoy your beans, friend, as many products are fine months, and sometimes years, after their best-before or use-by date.

Scott Nash, founder of the US chain MOM’s Organic Market, put this to the test, having him and his family eating foods labeled well past their best-before dates to prove they were safe to eat.

“Most of the food that gets discarded is due to these arbitrary and confusing dates,” Nash said. “What does ‘expire’ mean? There is ‘best by,’ there is ‘sell by,’ ‘best if used by.’ I just think that there is no consistency, and that it is creating confusion.”


Rather than following the labeled date religiously, Nash says you can tell if something’s gone bad based on appearance, texture, and smell.

Of course, you’ll want to follow the expiry dates on meat, bread, and fish products, but again, the expiry date is more about how long the producer is willing to guarantee quality.

This helps with food waste problems, too. According to a 2018 report by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (an international body set up under a NAFTA side accord), 168 million metric tonnes (185 million tons) of food are wasted in North America every year, with Canadians wasting 396 kilograms (or 873 pounds) per capita.

Related: What You Didn’t Know About Best-Before and Expiry Dates

Second Harvest, a Toronto-based agency that works to reduce food waste, says that 58% of food purchased in the country is either lost or wasted. That totals roughly $49 billion in food.

What’s more, the food waste is starting to impact the environment. Second Harvest’s report also shows food waste in Canada alone creates 56.6 million tonnes (62.4 million tons) of carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions every year. Landfills piling up with food adds methane gas to the air, too, which is 25 more harmful than carbon dioxide.

Photo Credit: andy0man/Shutterstock.com; Feng Yu/Shutterstock.com

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