Are expiry dates still useful?

Expiry dates, still useful?


This summer, a UK grocery chain removed best before dates on nearly 500 food items in a bid to reduce food waste. This decision fueled a debate on the question: for or against expiry dates? According to a survey conducted by Dalhousie University, 60% of Canadians are against removing expiry dates. We take stock! 


In Canada, pre-packaged foods that can be kept for less than 90 days must be marked with the expiry date (also known as the “use by” date or the “best before” date). 

Beyond this date, the organoleptic qualities of the food (flavor, aroma, texture) may be affected, and even their food safety. 

It is important to know that this date evaluates the shelf life of the unopened product, once opened, the shelf life of the food is considerably shorter. 

The best before date is determined by the food industry. 


Foods can be classified into three categories: those whose expiry date must absolutely be respected, those that can be consumed a few days or even a few weeks after the date and finally those that can be stretched for a long time without danger. It is the amount of water in food that will determine the shelf life of a product (microorganisms grow in a humid environment), dry products can be kept much longer. Let's review them! 


In May 2022, a survey of Quebec households concluded that expiry dates are the second factor that contributes the most to food waste. food, right after forgetting. 

A month later, a study carried out by Recyc-Québec showed that 39% of annual food residues are still edible. In a context of disproportionate inflation and considering that food waste represents a loss of $1,000 annually per household, should we ban expiry dates, at least on certain foods? 

For the anti-waste expert, Florence-Léa Siry, expiry dates are useful, but there is a very poor understanding of them and there is undeniably a lot of education to be done on the subject. 

< p>“In Europe, I saw “Best before” on some products and I found that very relevant considering that expiry dates are indicators of freshness. This would make it possible to have a lot less confusion and to eliminate the false belief that the product is no longer good after this date”, continues this specialist. 



If you really want to avoid throwing away a food that's still good, here's a list of the proper before and after opening shelf life for a few common foods. The information was collected from the companies.



The thermoguide is a tool developed by the Ministère de l'Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l'Alimentation du Québec (MAPAQ) to guide consumers regarding storage times. This guide contains storage times for perishable and less perishable foods in the fridge, freezer and pantry. For example, for the “eggs” category, the tool shows the shelf life of fresh in-shell eggs, hard-boiled eggs, raw egg whites, and raw egg yolks. It also gives instructions on what to keep and what to throw away in the event of a power outage. Among other things, he mentions that after 6 a.m. you can keep firm cheese in a block, but not soft cheese. So, the next time you have a doubt, don't hesitate to take a look!