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Food Labeling

Sandra Lapajne BASc, CPHI(C)

Information on food packages such as “best before” or expiry dates are important to consumers. It provides them a guideline for the durable life of the product. The “durable life” refers to the anticipated amount of time that an unopened food product, when stored under appropriate conditions, will retain its:

freshness,
taste,
nutritional value,
or any other qualities claimed by the manufacturer.

Pre-packaged foods that will keep for 90 days or less must have a “best before” date. If the product is packaged at the retailers, it may have either: a “best before” date and proper storage instructions or the date packaged and the durable life of the food (e.g. – the number of days a product will retain its freshness).

Food products with an expiration date that has passed should be discarded. Food with a passed “best before” date can be eaten but, the product may lose some of its freshness and flavour, or its texture. Remember that  the “best before” date is not an indicator of food safety before or after the date.  Once a product is opened, the shelf life of the food may change.

Remember these four critical food safety messages:

CLEAN:  Wash hands and surfaces often.
SEPARATE:  Don’t cross-contaminate.
COOK:  Cook to proper temperatures.
CHILL:  Refrigerate promptly.

REFERENCES

(1) Food Safety: A Guide for Ontario’s Foodhandlers. MOHLTC. 2013 Feb; 18-19.
(2) Date Labelling on Pre-packaged Foods [internet], CFIA; 2013 July [cited 2013 Dec 4]. Available from: http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/fssa/concen/tipcon/date.shtml.