1. Expiration Date tells consumers the last day a product is safe to consume. A food item should never be consumed after the Expiry Date
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency mandates that only five types of products need to be labelled with an expiration date:
•Baby formula and other human milk substitutes.
•Pharmacist-sold foods for very low-energy diets.
•Formulated liquid diets.
2. Best before dates guarantee freshness. Best before dates are found on foods that will only stay fresh for 90 days or less. Some foods may be consumed even if their best before date has passed, unlike an expiry date.
An unopened, properly stored product's best before date tells a consumer how long that food will keep its flavour and nutritional value. It doesn't have anything to do with a food's safety, says Topp.
A farm-fresh egg will stay together in 'a nice, little package' when someone tries to fry or poach it. An egg past its best before date is more likely to spread or have the yolk break.
"[With some products] the taste may have greatly deteriorated, but it’s still safe to eat," she says.
If someone fries or poaches a fresh egg, she says, it will stay together in "a nice, little package." If they use an egg beyond its best before date, it will spread out more and the yolk may be more likely to break.
"But, there's nothing wrong with the egg," she says, "as long as it's not cracked."
The manufacturer's nutritional claims may no longer apply after a best before date or if the product isn't properly stored, says Cathy Paroschy Harris, a dietitian and spokeswoman for Dietitians of Canada. Orange juice may not provide as much Vitamin C and milk less riboflavin past the best before date.
Other items may have compromised taste, but still be safe to eat. Ketchups and salsas may be more acidic, dry pasta may break when cooked, and cookies at the back of the pantry may just taste bad. It's generally the taste, not safety that suffers.
However, foods must be properly stored according to package instructions to avoid turning mouldy or sour before their best before date.