Food, Expiry Dates, and You

Written by Queenie Lei, an undergraduate Communication student who is fascinated with international issues and is always trying to discover more about herself.

Note: In this blog post, I want to share what I learned about expiration dates and best-before dates. I also want to share details on how markets can fiddle with the best-before dates of various food products.

Although Marketplace isn’t a completely brand new TV show, I only started watching it recently as the things that they were discovering was very informative. CBC has been airing a weekly Marketplace episode on their channel as well as streaming it on their website. According to Marketplace’s about page, CBC Marketplace is a documentary show that “reveals what Canadians need to know in order to protect themselves, their families and their money from slick scams and misleading marketing claims." A team of experienced investigative journalists put the products and services that Canadians use every day to the test to hold companies and government accountable. Innovative and insightful, Marketplace tries to fight for change.

One episode I recently watched talked about how markets fiddle with the best before dates on food products. The second episode I watched was how Starbucks/Tim Hortons does not recycle its single-use cups, throwing them out in the garbage instead. When I finished watching the episode with the best-before dates, I was completely blown away and appalled at how easy it was for companies and supermarkets to play around and tamper with the best-before dates on food products. For example, in this specific episode, it showed how a bakery would re-do the toppings of a fruit tart that had passed its best-before dates and then re-sell that same tart! Another example they used was how some companies would remove the old best-before dates and re-package the same food product with a new date! After re-packaging the product, they would then place the product back to its original place on shelves for consumers. 

1. So why should you care about best-before dates?
According to a CBC article, it describes how people do not know the difference between expiration dates and best-before dates. While you may think they are the same thing, they actually tell two different things. Expiration dates tell consumers the last day when a food product is safe to consume. On the other hand, best-before dates tell consumers how long the food product will keep its flavour and nutritional value. The quality will start deteriorating after this date but is still safe to eat after a few days. Products such as steak, eggs, and canned soup all have best-before dates. While it may seems to be safe to eat a food item after an expired or best before date, the chances of that food item having bacteria and mould is also likely to occur so you should always be aware of the smell and texture of the food before consuming.

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2. General tips at a grocery store/market

- Be careful with expired/best-before dates.

- When shopping for bakery items, make sure you are buying the product in its original full form. Try to avoid buying products that are cut up.

- Be mindful of what markets could be possibly doing with the food products.

3. What can you do if you have food items that are almost passed their best-before date? 
You can donate the perishable food items to organizations such as Covenant House Vancouver . For non-perishable food items, you can donate them to food banks such as Greater Vancouver Food Bank, SFU Food Bank, etc.

Covenant House Vancouver is a non-profit organization that targets Vancouver’s street youth. If you have any food items that are close to their best-before or expiration dates, you can drop it directly at 575 Drake Street, which is opened 24/7! 

Geared towards businesses and local farmers, Quest is a non-profit organization that partners with local wholesalers, supermarkets, and farmers. These partners donate surplus food to Quest. At Quest, they re-distribute these foods at a greatly reduced cost to those who are in need in the Lower Mainland. Quest assists individuals each month through partnerships with local social service agencies by providing their clients with access to our not-for-profit grocery markets and by delivering raw food materials to agencies for their own meal programs. 

Happy eating and happy food shopping from Embark Sustainability blogging team!

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