Information about Food Security

How to Read Best Before Dates

How to Read Best Before Dates

By Keith Yee in Information about Food Security on September 30, 2014

There is a lot of confusion around best before dates, expiry dates, and food safety, and justifiably so- there are many different codes and symbols used.  We hope that this post will answer your questions:

Best Before Dates:

Best before dates are only required on products with a shelf life of less than 90 days, although they are frequently used on products with long shelf lives (like canned goods).  Best Before dates are marked with the words “Best Before” or “B.B./M.A.”

Food that is past its best before date is still safe to eat, although it may have a different texture or flavour.  The Richmond Food Bank’s policy is to dispose of any items that are two years past their best before dates (unless the items are damaged (rusty, severely dented) in which case we throw them out immediately).

Expiry Dates:

Expiry dates are found on products where the nutritional ingredients need to be stable (like baby formula and nutritional supplements).  These foods are clearly marked with “EXP” or “Expiry.”

While they are likely safe to eat, the manufacturers cannot guarantee that the nutritional composition remains stable.  It is the Richmond Food Bank’s policy to dispose of items immediately once they are past their Expiry Date.

Manufacturer’s Codes:

These are a set of numbers and letters, and are used by shipping companies and manufacturers to track their products.  They are not indicative of the best before dates or expiry dates.

Still unsure?  Please see this poster for more information:

Best Before Date - Final VersionWe hope that this is helpful.   Please Contact Us if you have any questions.

About the author

Keith Yee

Keith Yee is the Richmond Food Bank's General Manager.