Updated: Aug 23, 2021
Canadians added 13% more food to the waste bin since the pandemic started.
Food waste is a serious worldwide problem that comes from consumers like you and me. A lot of it ends up in landfills, where it decomposes slowly and without air, releasing the greenhouse gas methane which is 25 times more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide.
Reading best-before dates as expiry dates contributes to staggering amounts of unnecessary food waste after it has been harvested. Research suggests Canadians are among the biggest food-wasters in the world. Every Canadian loses or wastes almost 400 kilograms of food a year, just under half of which happens at home.
People assume that food past the best-before date on the package is spoiled - but this isn’t always the case. Best-before dates are actually more of a suggestion than a strict guideline. According to Health Canada, the best-before date on most packaged products indicates the time after which the product may lose its freshness, flavour or nutritional value. However, it’s important to remember the best-before date applies only to unopened items.
Packaged dry goods and canned foods with a shelf-life greater than 90 days don't need a best-before date but may still include one. Those year old crackers at the back of your pantry may taste a bit stale but they probably won't make you sick. Only a few foods like infant formula and liquid diets have actual expiry dates. Some things have them that don’t need them, like bottled water.
Not confusing “best before” with “expired” will lead to these three things:
1. You’ll waste less food.
2. You’ll save money.
3. You’ll decrease organics wasting in the landfill
How long after a best before date can you safely eat eggs, milk, mustard, cereal, etc.?
Consult Love Food Hate Waste for storage and consumption time limits.
Every little bit help so here are a few ways I cut down food waste in my home:
- mindful meal planning and grocery shopping to reduce the food that rots in the bowels of my fridge
- composting - nature's way of recycling - potato and banana peels, coffee filters and grounds, strawberry tops and burnt toast
- freezing leftovers and vegetable trimmings for soup stock
- finding ways to make lunches or new meals of leftovers