The Environmental Health Department, as part of its ongoing food safety awareness campaign, is providing safety tips to help consumers get a better understanding of food labeling dates, which give a guide to how long food can be kept before it begins to deteriorate or may become unsafe to eat.
All packaged food should be clearly labeled with the appropriate durability indication. “Best by,” “use by,” “sell by” and “expires on” are just some of the terms found on food packaging. The department would like to inform consumers of what food date labels actually mean so that they can make safe choices and optimize the use and storage of their food.
“Best by,” “Best Before,” “Best if Used Before” or “Best if Used By”: Theserelate to food quality indicating when the product will have its best flavor or texture. Surpassing this date food may still be safe to consume but the quality would not be good. An example is bread, past the date it may be okay to eat but may be dry and leathery.
“Use Before” or “Use By” and “Expired on”: These dates relate to safety.These are manufacture recommended dates that tell consumers when the product should no longer be consumed. Food can be eaten or frozen then storedbefore or on these dates but not after.
These dates are usually found on perishable food such as meats, dairy and ready-to-eat meals which can be very unsafe to consume when passed its date.
“Freeze-By”: This is the date you should freeze a product for it to maintain its top quality and should not be thawed unless it is to be used. Thawing thenrefreezing a product changes its integrity and compromises its safety.
“Sell-By”: This label is directed toward the retailer to ensure proper turnover of inventory. This is the last date that the product should be displayed in the store.The most important labels to understand and look for are the “best before” and “use by dates”.
• Always check the dates on your food items before purchase and consumption
• Do not purchase or consume food with signs of spoilage, for instance, foul odour or discolouration.
• Always store food based on manufacturer’s directions and do not purchase or consume poorly stored food goods.
• Always inspect food packaging for damage or possible contamination before purchase and consumption.
The Environmental Health Department (EHD) is dedicated to ensuring the health and safety of our country. The department is urging consumers to report any suspicious or outdated labelled food products that may be seen on display or if they have any general inquiries regarding food safety, to please contact the EHD at 338-2142.