Best Before vs Expiry Dates and Food Waste

I've witnessed people throw away products on their best before date as if it's a strict guide to not be poisoned.

There is a glaring difference between best before's and expiry dates. With a poorly regulated standard which is not enforced, this system is not working. A misunderstanding of these dates can lead to confusion and waste. So what do these dates mean?

Expiry dates

Expiry dates are a day that a product should be thrown away. It's reserved mostly for medical supplies, baby formula, nutritional supplements, and medications. On this stated day, the product has to be thrown away. These are high risk and should not be used passed expiry. Straight up garbage. Do not use.

Best before dates

Best before dates are considered to be the day the product begins to lose quality. It is a date set by the manufacturer to literally say, "This product will be of best quality before _____." This is assuming the products are packed and stored under correct conditions.  The quality does not suddenly deteriorate on this date but products may lose nutritional value or have changes to texture or flavour.

The CFIA requires

The CFIA states that best before dates be put on products with a shelf life of under 90 days. The following format is to be used:

Best before

17 JA 30

Meilleut avant

Year, month (in recognized bilingual form), day. The year is no required but is suggested if the date falls into the next calendar year.


I grabbed six rando products, all Canadian made, and found the following best before dates: 


1) Best before 013118


2) Use by



3) Best by 

Aug 31 17


4) Exp Avril 2017


5)Best before



6) BB:2018/SE/30


So, none meet the CFIA standards and they were all different formatting, many using phrasing that is just straight up unacceptable. 

These are only six different products AND all Canadian made, so what is the problem? Although this standard is clearly stated on the CFIA's website, it doesn't seem to be enforced in any way and there is no one held accountable. 

We cannot blame people for misunderstanding these labels. They're all different, seemingly random, and not in any way enforced. Best before dates are essentially just a rough guide set by a manufacturer which leaves the consumer to use their best discretion. Many people are unaware of this and don't want to test the boundaries of food safety. Thus, often products passed their best before date are simply discarded despite still being "fine". Use your senses.