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Ottawa urged to look into best before date system in bid to reduce grocery waste

July 4, 2023 | By The Canadian Press

There are calls for Canada to look into best before dates and whether they worsen food waste and food insecurity.

A report on grocery affordability from a House of Commons committee on agriculture and agri-food quotes the CEO of Second Harvest Canada as saying Canadians’ misconceptions about best before dates lead to an excess of food waste.

Lori Nikkel says people treat the dates like expiry dates, when in fact they are just what they state: the date before which a food is at its freshest.

The committee suggests the government investigate “how the elimination of ‘best-before’ dates on foods would impact Canadians.”


Kate Parizeau, a professor at the University of Guelph who studies food waste, said Tuesday she supports the call, particularly when it comes to foods that don’t go bad quickly.

Foods expected to go bad within 90 days, such as eggs and milk, are legally required to have a best before date, but Parizeau said manufacturers of other foods often include best before dates on their packaging. She said that can lead people to believe prematurely that their food is not suitable to eat.

She said consumers tend to trust best before dates implicitly.

“I think many people have this idea that before dates are determined by scientists in a lab measuring how many days until a product goes bad,” she said.

“That’s not how it works. It’s something that the government tells manufacturers that they themselves have to figure out in-house, so it’s a bit of a black box.”

Parizeau encouraged consumers to learn more about food safety so they can determine for themselves whether groceries are spoiled.


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